As the examination season looms, students at the University of Hong Kong can look forward to relieving their stress and relaxing with the institution’s first in-house therapy dog, Jasper, next month. Under a new pilot programme, students and staff at the university will be able to book a 30-minute session to play with the nine-year-old English Sheepdog and enjoy its company. The available slots are on December 11, 13, and 15 at 9.30am, 1.30pm, and 2.30pm in the Lui Che Woo Law Library in the Centennial Campus of HKU in Sai Ying Pun. While some universities in the city offer one-off therapy sessions in collaboration with other organisations, HKU’s pilot programme is unique as it is the first among Hong Kong universities to have the furry friend being a member of the institution. University librarian Peter Sidorko said: “We are absolutely delighted to have our own ‘resident’ therapy dog whom we can rely on as a therapeutic mascot to foster student engagement.” How therapy dogs help calm stressed airline passengers at Los Angeles International Airport (at San Francisco it’s a pig) Like the students who are now facing the challenge of preparing for their examinations in December, Jasper too faced difficulties when he was younger. The sheepdog spent a period of time at animal shelter Hong Kong Dog Rescue before being adopted by a staff member at the university. Eva Sit of Hong Kong Dog Rescue said that Jasper was very skinny when the charity group took him in from his former owner in 2009. His current owner adopted him that same year. Jasper has since helped to raise awareness of the plight of shelter dogs by taking part in regular events organised by the rescue group. Registered counsellor Scarlett Tsoi Yee-man said that therapy dogs could help cheer students up and make them feel that they are not alone. But Tsoi added that the sort of therapy needed for each case was different as it depended on their source of stress.