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Therapy Dog Awarded Honorary Veterinary Dogtorate

Isabelle Perlman

An 8-year-old yellow Lab originally from New York, delightfully named 'Moose,' was awarded an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine by Virginia Tech's College of Veterinary Medicine at their online, 2020 commencement ceremony this past Friday.'

Moose isn't an ordinary dog. Since 2014, he's helped thousands of students cope with anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues. He's also participated in 7,500 counseling sessions with his owner, licensed counselor Trent Davis.'

Moose and Trent

Davis launched Virginia Tech's animal-assisted therapy program, and Moose has a big role in reducing the stigma of mental illness on campus. In an interview, Davis said, '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.'

As one of the school's four therapy animals and ambassadors for mental health, Moose hasn't let social-distancing stop him from helping students. He and Davis hold virtual office hours and even in-person meetings if a student has an emergency and asks to see one of the therapy animals.'

While Moose is a source of strength for so many students, he's had his challenges too. This February, Davis noticed blood in Moose's urine and he was later diagnosed with prostate cancer. Moose receives ongoing radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and other therapies at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He's treated very well by the staff and 'remains his usual happy self,' Davis said.

Moose and students

"The students here talk a lot about how Moose has broken down the stigma around mental health care on campus," Davis notes. "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."

In 2019, Moose was awarded the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Hero Award, which he was given for his heroic acts of service, daily outstanding work for humans, and focus on mental wellness.'

While he can't do much with his new degree, this Honorary Doctorate is a reminder of the importance of mental health care, especially in the veterinary community.'

For more positive animal stories, read Silver Linings from the Animal Kingdom and 'Lucky Dog': The Story of Scout and His Super Bowl Win for Vets


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