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10/9/2013 7:19:00 PM
Pete's Pet Posse ready to 'wag' its way toward better health

The wag of a tail, the nuzzle of a wet nose, and the gaze of sympathetic eyes are the therapeutic tools the new pet therapy pilot program called "Pete's Pet Posse" is offering to students, faculty and staff at Oklahoma State University this fall.

The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine established the pet therapy program and is enlisting a maximum of 10 dogs this year to booster the emotional health of the campus as part of the campaign to make Oklahoma State America's HEALTHIEST Campus.

"I am thrilled to be part of Pete's Pet Posse and I applaud OSU and the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences for taking the initiative to create such an innovative program," said OSU First Lady Ann Hargis. "This program reaches across all campus borders and positively impacts faculty, staff, students, and even visitors to our beautiful campus.

I have already seen and heard so many positive stories as Charlie and Evie, our first canine candidates, have trained on campus the last few months. I look forward to continued results with this new emotional health program as we strive to become America's HEALTHIEST campus."

Evie is a shepherd rescued from the tornado near Shawnee, Oklahoma last Spring. She was treated at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and adopted by an employee in the human resources department. Evie now serves as a greeter for the office and visits other nearby staff offices bringing her own brand of emotional support. In addition, she has her own fan club that regularly stops by to say hello to her when she is working.

Charlie, a shepherd mix, was found neglected and abandoned near a Tulsa lake by an OSU employee who gave him a home and is training him as a therapy dog. All certified dogs will be required to wear special vests, collars and leashes while on campus. The therapy dogs are not the property of OSU but are volunteers to the program as either greeters or in medical therapeutic situations and will belong to OSU employees or others affiliated with the university.

"Research shows that exposure to and contact with animals has a soothing effect on humans leading to decreased blood pressure, reduced stress and a greater sense of calm," noted Dr. Jean Sander, Dean of the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. "Pete's Pet Posse is uniquely ideal for the OSU campus combining the expertise of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital with the heart for animals shared by students, staff and faculty."

Both Evie and Charlie have already served as campus greeters, offering companionship to staff and a familiar sense of comfort to homesick students as classes began this fall. The dogs have also been successfully used in more clinical settings to help students open up to a counseling professional.

The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital will provide yearly wellness exams, vaccinations, preventative medications and even dog food to participants. The newly established OSU Pet Therapy Board will approve all dogs accepted into the program. Anyone affiliated with OSU who has an animal they think would work well as a therapy pet may apply for participation in the program. For an application and more information visit PetTherapy.okstate.edu.

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