Congrats, Grad! Virginia Tech Awards One of Its Therapy Dogs an Honorary Doctorate

·3 min read

Dogtor Moose is on call!

On Friday, Virginia Tech's College of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 2020 class with an online commencement ceremony, including one special graduate, an 8-year-old therapy dog named Moose.

The adorable Labrador retriever has worked as one of the school's four therapy animals and ambassadors for mental health awareness at the university's Cook Counseling Center since 2014, and received an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine.

"The students here talk a lot about how Moose has broken down the stigma around mental health care on campus," Moose's owner, Trent Davis, a licensed counselor, told CNN. "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."

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According to Davis, Moose has helped countless students cope with anxiety and other mental health issues, and has even assisted in more than 7,500 counseling sessions. Davis has worked at the Cook Counseling Center for nearly a decade and helped launch the school's animal-assisted therapy program.

"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," Davis told CNN.

"These students see Moose as someone who's going to accept them," he added. "They don't worry about him judging them."

Virginia Tech Moose

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Moose's honorary degree comes after the pup himself had to overcome some challenging months after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February, requiring radiation and chemotherapy. He was treated by veterinarians at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, a joint venture of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland at College Park.

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Davis said Moose continues to receive chemotherapy and has been seeing positive results from the treatment.

The pup has also returned to work. Amid the coronavirus pandemic Moose has even been holding virtual office hours for students, as well as some in-person meetings if a student is experiencing an emergency, Davis said.

He added that watching Moose do his job has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

"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," Davis told CNN. "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."