For more than six years, students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg have relied on a service dog named Moose to help them through some hard times.
That’s why the university recently decided to pay Moose back. During their virtual graduation ceremony on May 15th, Moose was awarded with an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine!
The 8-year-old Labrador retriever is one of four canine helpers at the school’s Cook Counseling Center. Together, these wonderful pups serve as therapy dogs and mental health awareness ambassadors.
Over the course of his career, Moose has comforted students in over 7,500 counseling sessions and has attended more than 500 outreach events. He’s also a delightful presence at all their home football games, where he loves to show off his Hokie spirit from the sidelines!
This isn’t the first time Moose has been recognized for his efforts. In 2019, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association named him their “animal hero.” Still, this year’s honorary dog-torate came at an opportune moment because Moose was recently diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
Trent Davis, Moose’s human, is a licensed counselor who founded the animal therapy program at Virginia Tech. He said Moose is responding well to treatment.
While the dog is still receiving chemotherapy, nothing can keep him from caring for his students! Along with canine colleagues Carson and Wagner, he’s already returned to work. Trent said the pup constantly helps his patients feel better — even when they don’t love dogs!
“Some humans haven’t had the best experience with other humans, or even other dogs,” Trent said. “In both those cases, Moose provides a very safe and comforting force in the room. These students see Moose as someone who’s going to accept them. They don’t worry about him judging them.”
Even better, Moose helps students find a safe space and open up. In Trent’s words,
I’ll often meet people and they’ll be petting him, and all of a sudden they’re on the ground, talking in a baby voice. So when people ask, ‘How does this dog therapy thing work?’ I’m like kind of like, ‘I have never met you before and now you’re sitting one foot away from me petting the dog and talking to me about the meaning of life.’”
Congratulations to this extra good boi! We hope Moose celebrates his new degree with lots of belly rubs and treats. He’s earned them!
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