Arizona Daily Star, Carol Ann Alaimo) MANDATORY CREDIT, Associated Press
In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 photo, law student Rachel Corrigan pets therapy dog Ella at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. Ella is working at the University of Arizona to take the edge off students tackling law school exams

TUCSON, Ariz. — Ella the therapy dog had never been to university before.

Judging by her smile — yes, she smiles, her owner insists — the experience suited her fine.

Usually, Ella can be found comforting the sick, but on Thursday she took her talents to the law school at the University of Arizona.

There, nervous test-takers stroked the poodle's crinkly curls to soothe themselves during the crush of final exams.

"Wow," sighed student Rachel Corrigan, 25, sinking into a sofa outside the law school library to pet the pooch.

"I had four finals and a paper due the last day, so it's been a marathon."

Ella's human, Diane Alexander, volunteers with Delta Society's pet partners program. She's one of about 20 specially trained dog handlers who took part in the sessions with their pets.

Between 100 and 150 students stopped by for some puppy love during the two weeks of finals, she said.

"The students love it," said Alexander, a retired retail worker who dressed Ella in a Christmas collar for the occasion.

"They spend so much time with their noses in books or staring at a computer. Hugging a dog for a little while, it makes them feel happy."

Cindy Hirsch, a dog lover and library fellow at the law school, came up with the concept after learning of similar programs at several universities nationwide.

Hirsch pitched the idea to the local therapy dog group, and they bit.

"I'd say it's been pretty rewarding for everyone involved," she said.

There's already talk of expanding the program next year beyond the law school, if officials agree.

That's a great idea, said law student Katie Daubert, 29, who stopped to commune with Ella on her way to an exam on immigration law.

"There's just something so cool," she said, "about seeing a dog at school."

Information from: Arizona Daily Star,