'Reading dogs' help reduce student stress at University of Tartu Library

Bailey is one of the 'reading dogs' helping out at the University of Tartu Library this winter.
Bailey is one of the 'reading dogs' helping out at the University of Tartu Library this winter. Source: ERR

With the winter exam period approaching, this time of year is usually one of the most stressful for university students. Fortunately, at the University of Tartu's Night Library, "reading dogs" are on hand to bring some comfort and help ease the tension.

Nessie the Russian Hunting Sighthound (Borzoi) is a reading dog. However, this does not mean students at the University of Tartu's Night Library use her as a sounding board to test out the latest theoretical frameworks they have developed or ask her to test them on the array of complex concepts they have been busy memorizing.

Instead, Nessie is calmly helping the students cope with the stressful period in the lead up to their exams.

"Borzoi is my favorite breed and I'm really happy that I got to pet the dog. He's very soft and very calm, but he also seems a little nervous because there are so many people here and everyone is touching him," said Eden, a student at the University of Tartu.

"Reading dogs" have been an integral part of the university's Night Library for over a decade now. According to the librarians who work there, students come to the library even before the exam period, to ask about the possibility of seeing the dogs again.

"One time, we were in the library and saw a reader there crying. We asked her what had happened and she said, that she really missed her dog, who was in Saaremaa, while she was studying in Tartu. We thought that maybe we should invite a 'reading dog' here, to give everyone a bit of comfort, and they would not only help not to relieve the stress, but also some of that longing," explained Olga Einasto, head of the library's service department.

While Nessie has comforted students before, Estonia's smallest therapy dog, Bailey, was making his Night Library debut on Wednesday. Having just passed her own exam, she knows what the stress ahead of an important test feels like. And nowadays, students certainly have lot of it.

"I've got a research paper due soon, so there's a lot of stress. It's nice that they are thinking about the mental health of students," said Eva, a student at the University of Tartu.

Bailey is also the only chihuahua in Estonia, who has also been trained as a therapy dog, proudly proving to the students that even the smallest dogs can be both friendly and well-behaved.

"When you've been studying all day, it's really nice to have a cute animal to pet," international student Melanie told ERR.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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