Therapy Dog Awarded a Doctorate

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. bestow / bɪˈstoʊ / (v) – to formally give something such as an award, etc.

    The award was bestowed on him by the state for his excellent public service.

  2. honorary / ˈɒn əˌrɛr i / (adj) – describing a title given as a sign of honor with no duties

    As an honorary member of the organization, he occasionally attends some of its events.

  3. overcome / ˌoʊ vərˈkʌm / (v) – to successfully handle or deal with something negative (e.g. an issue)

    I had low self-esteem when I was a teenager, but I finally overcame my insecurities when I became an adult.

  4. canine / ˈkeɪ naɪn / (n) – a dog

    Police officers are training new canines to work as police dogs.

  5. stigma / ˈstɪg mə / (n) – a set of negative beliefs about someone or something

    Several organizations around the world are breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.


Read the text below.

An eight-year-old therapy dog at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) was bestowed an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Moose, a Labrador retriever, has been with the university since 2014. He is one of the four therapy dogs at the university’s counseling center.

Trent Davis, a licensed counselor and Moose’s owner, said that his dog has helped thousands of students overcome their mental health issues and aided in over 7,500 counseling sessions. Moose has also been part of over 500 outreach events at Virginia Tech and helped raise awareness for mental health.

The canine’s honorary degree comes after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer last February. Davis said that the university did not want to wait any longer to honor Moose’s service knowing that his illness may cut his life short.

Moose is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the university’s veterinary hospital. According to Davis,  they have been seeing positive results, and the dog remains his usual cheerful self.

Before being awarded the honorary degree, Moose received the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Hero Award back in 2019 because of his contribution to mental health awareness. The award recognizes animals that have performed or continue to perform heroic service for humans.

Davis hopes that Moose’s legacy will highlight the support and assistance he gave to students. Davis also wishes that through Moose, people will be encouraged to try animal-assisted therapy and the stigma attached to mental illness will be lessened.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think involving animals in therapy sessions will lessen the stigma attached to mental illness? Why or why not?
• Do you think it’s necessary to grant animals like Moose an honorary award? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Apart from dogs, what animals do you think can be involved in therapy sessions? Why?
• How can people ensure the safety of animals and people during therapy sessions (e.g. animals should be trained, people should be careful when touching the animals)? Discuss.