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Therapy Dog Gets Honorary Degree

May 18, 2020

This dog is more than just a good boy — he’s an honorary doctor of veterinary medicine.

Meet Moose, an 8-year-old therapy dog at Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. Since 2014, Moose has worked with thousands of students and aided more than 7,500 counseling sessions, according to owner Trent Davis, a licensed counselor and coordinator of animal-assisted therapy.

Davis said he was told by the school’s dean, that Moose would be an honorary 2020 graduate during the virtual commencement and would receive an official honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine.

“[Moose] is going to get a diploma and everything,” said Davis. “I guess, a little caveat is that he is a dog. He can’t actually apply for a job. Although, he would be a pretty good veterinarian.”.

It’s happy news for Moose in the wake of a few challenging months for the beloved Labrador retriever. In February, a week after his eighth birthday, Moose was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“We noticed some blood on his urethra and I took him in,” said Davis, who noted that prostate cancer can be particularly aggressive in dogs because of the prostate’s position on the bladder. “He started treatment immediately.”

After months of treatment and with the generous help of a few human colleagues, Moose was able to return home last week, said Davis.

“He’s doing chemo and doing great. He’s a happy camper,” said Davis. Moose is one of four therapy dogs at the Cook Counseling Center, and has made a grand impact within the Virginia Tech community that he serves, said Davis. “A lot of people say to me, ‘Well, how does the therapy dog work?’ Well, [I bring Moose] in public and [people] are down on the ground, petting the dog and all of a sudden talking in a baby voice,” said Davis, whose dogs and human coordinators go through extensive therapy dog certifications. “[Dogs] provide a source of comfort and grounding. For a lot of humans, unfortunately, other humans haven’t always been the best to them in their lives, so dogs can be a little bit safer.”

“There are record numbers of [mental health concerns] on college campuses … When people keep saying ‘This is the best part of my day [when they’re with Moose],’ you start to believe that maybe there’s something to that,” added Davis.

According to Davis, Moose plans on celebrating his honorary degree by eating, sleeping and chasing a bally. Hopefully, if the weather is right, Moose plans on swimming, his favorite summer activity.

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