8-year-old Moose is a Labrador Retriever who has been a therapy dog at Virginia Tech for years. Throughout those years of service he has not faltered in his dedication to helping the students on campus over come their many different struggles. In exchange for his unwavering commitment, the university has awarded him an honorary doctorate degree. And this year, the adorable pooch joined the ranks of Virginia Tech’s graduating class of 2020!
Since 2014, Moose has been a part of the veterinary college’s Cook Counseling Center, where he’s assisted in more than 7,500 sessions! While he’s been such a good boy and has received other recognition, this was the first time that he was officially recognized at a commencement ceremony. And as a result, he got to join the pomp and ceremony of the virtual graduation that happened on May 15th.
Moose is one of four dogs who all work as both therapy dogs and mental health representatives at the Virginia Tech campus. In addition to helping students work their way through trauma, anxiety, and other personal issues, Moose is also a regular attendant of events such as football games and other activities, where he helps to keep spirits lifted no matter what.
Moose’s owner is Trent Davis. He is a licensed counselor as well as founder of the school’s animal therapy program. Davis, shared with CNN, “Some humans haven’t had the best experience with other humans, or even other dogs. 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.”
This isn’t Moose’s first award. In fact, back in 2019, Moose was presented with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Hero Award.
But this year’s honorary doctorate is something of a big issue, as just this past February, about a week after his birthday, Moose was diagnosed with prostate cancer after blood was found in his urine. He’s undergone both radiation treatment and chemotherapy, but he’s still fighting. And even as such, this brave pooch as managed to get back to work as his old, happy self! Very, very impressive.
But perhaps one of the biggest impacts that Moose has had on the campus, as been his ability to help break the stigmas that are attached to mental health and mental health care. And that is a huge victory.
As Davis said, “Veterinarians are unfortunately a very challenged population. They have high rates of suicide, and this profession can be quite disturbing. He has really helped the students and staff at Virginia Tech and has gotten a lot of recognition for that.”
Davis added, “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.'”
Besides his vital work of helping the student body of Virginia Tech handle their mental health, Moose is also known to be a huge fan of swimming and playing tug of war. Plus, he loves his treats – and this sweet boy better be getting all the treats he desires!