Therapy Dogs Take Care of People at WVU

A furry white Australian Labradoodle trots toward a student whose arm is outstretched with an open palm bearing a doggie treat.

“C’mon Brando,” a student calls, hoping to entice Marlon Brando, the therapy dog for the West Virginia University’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering, to play.

Another student beckons Brando to roll over – a trick she taught him. Others simply hold out their hands as they are walking by to graze the back of Brando in the crowded hallway.

Marlon Brando is one of three therapy dogs at the University. The others are Gretel with the Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services and Omega with the Reed College of Media. All serve similar purposes: to soothe, relax and make students, faculty and staff comfortable.

And all three have their own Twitter accounts: you can follow Brando at @WVUDogfather, Gretel at @Gretel_Labradoo and Omega at @WVUMediaHound.

West Virginia University is among other top universities, including Yale University, Harvard University and Columbia University, who employ therapy dogs as a stress-relief mechanism.

The intricate bond between people and dogs has been studied for years – and continues to be.

“There’s something about a dog and a person being together that is hard to describe,” said Lindsay Parenti, who operates the service dog training program Hearts of Gold within the University and teaches two related courses. “It may be something that science may never be able to figure out because we might not ever be able to measure it.”

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