A dog has become the first animal in Scotland to be given a full-time job helping university students to cope with stress.
Rocco, a two-year-old labradoodle, has been named the “student stress-buster” given the official title of “therapet” at Queen Margaret University in East Lothian.
The pooch is part of Canine Concern Scotland Trust’s Therapet Visiting Service and has been specially assessed by the charity for the role.
The male dog’s owner, Kirsten Baird, said she had been working hard on Rocco’s training and social skills on a daily basis.
Kirsten, who is general manager of the university’s students’ union, said: “The Students Union has run several ‘therapet’ sessions over the last few years which students really seemed to benefit from.
“Rocco came with me to work almost every day and the students all seemed to love him.”
“So it made sense to train him as an official ‘therapet’ which would allow QMU students more regular access to organised sessions.
“He is proving to be a huge hit with students, particularly during stressful periods around exams and assignments.
“Many students miss their own pets from home and often enjoy the opportunity to be with Rocco.
“It’s great for the dog – who relishes the opportunity to give love and receive attention and to the pet owners who get a feeling of satisfaction knowing their beloved animal is helping others.”
Therapet dogs come in all sizes and breeds and are approved for having a steady and friendly temperament.
The university said their most important attribute is to bring comfort and happiness to people who need it the most.
Maj Meah, a fourth year student at QMU who is studying a BA (Hons) Public Relations and Media, has attended several sessions with Rocco.
He said: “Everyone loves Rocco and the students now associate him with their visits to the students’ union.
“He’s a fun dog to have around and is proving to be a great stress-buster and companion for many students.”
Caitlin Lewis-Ogden, a BA (Hons) Costume Design and Construction student, added: “I am not able to care for a dog full time at this point, but having the opportunity to spend time with Rocco on occasion has been really lovely.”
The Canine Concern Scotland Trust said the therapeutic value that dogs can offer people who may not have regular access to them.
And Simon Young, the trust’s spokesman, appealed for more volunteers to register their dogs for therapeutic roles.
He added: “We are always looking for more volunteers to register their dogs or cats and become members.
“We are incredibly grateful to our volunteers who give up their time to deliver the Therapet Visiting Service and to our supporters who sustain our work through essential fundraising.”