Inside the front doors of the Montana State University Library on Tuesday, a 900-pound donkey named Oliver blocked the main entrance, forcing students to squeeze by.

Oliver, a head-high, brown-and-white animal who loves affection, stood still, pointed his ears and closed his eyes as students petted him, hugged him and snapped the occasional selfie by his side.

“Since this is his first time out I wanted to make sure he got a lot of attention,” said Stephanie Barnett, Oliver’s owner.

Oliver was one of several animals at the MSU Library on Tuesday helping students relieve stress during finals week. Intermountain Therapy Animals brought Oliver and several dogs to the library and to Cheever Hall, where students petted them on study breaks.

Students who walked into the library were met with a trail of paw prints leading them to an area in the corner of the main study room. Students sat in circles around the dogs, which were always excited to be played with and scratched.

Run entirely by volunteers, Intermountain Therapy Animals has a wide variety of breeds to relax with students — ranging from Bernese mountain dogs, golden retrievers and even Oliver the donkey.

The organization looks to help students get through the rough times at the end of the school term the best way they know: by playing with dogs.

“People make friends with each other as well as the dogs. You can see a lot of laughter, and it’s a new vibe that you don’t see often around this time,” said Hanna McKelvey, a library worker who helped keep the event organized.

Students were encouraged to place a marker on a large board to show their level of stress, ranked 1 to 5, before petting the animals. On their way in, students tended to rank themselves a 4 or 5. On the way out, students seemed more at ease, giving themselves a 1 or 2.

“I try to come as much as I can because it’s one of the things I look forward to at the end of every semester,” said Sierra Bosley, a student taking a study break. “It’s great to see new dogs because they are always adding more and more to the event. Every day is filled with new dogs.”

Rolf Tengdin is a general assignment reporter for the Chronicle. He can be reached at


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