Mac and his human handler Dawn Holt celebrated the senior golden retriever’s 15th birthday and his retirement as a therapy dog at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he pioneered therapy work 13 years ago. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Therapy dog retires from B.C. university

Mac and his handler pioneered using dogs for therapy in a university setting 13 years ago

After 91 years on the job, it’s time for Mac to hang up his hat – not that he has a hat.

Macbeth had plenty to celebrate at the University of the Fraser Valley Tuesday afternoon: his retirement and the golden retriever’s 105th birthday (that’s 15 years to you, humans).

And he’s been a very good boy – 13 years ago, Mac sniffed out a brand new path as a therapy dog with his human Dawn Holt.

RELATED: Mac the therapy dog gives comfort to wildfire evacuees

RELATED: Golden retriever gets UFV students to Paws for a Break

“At the time that he was placed, he was the first accredited facility dog [in the world] placed in a post-secondary institution doing therapeutic work with students,” said Tara Doherty, marketing and communications director with the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), which trained and placed Mac.

“I think that can be a bold statement, but we don’t have any other documented situations before, and it was a leap of faith on the part of the University of the Fraser Valley, because there was no precedent.”

Holt, a registered clinical counsellor at UFV, brought the idea to the university man dog-decades ago, citing her university thesis work on the mental health benefits of assistance dogs for handlers with disabilities.

She looked into research on the use of therapy dogs in health-care and said she felt a therapy dog could be beneficial for a university setting as well.

“When I was hired here, I was eventually able to convince management to give it a shot as a pilot program, and 13 years later we’re still doing it,” Holt said, adding that universities are good setting for therapy dogs because they are like “mini-cities.”

“Mini-cities have people who have mental health struggles just like everywhere else, so kids in university and mature students who come to university, they still have all the life stressors that all of the rest of us have, plus the added stressor of academics. So, students’ stress load are actually much higher than they actually might seem on the surface.”

And Mac has proven the efficacy of dogs in counselling services, which Holt says can encourage students with opening up about their issues. Dogs have also been shown to physiologically lower stress levels in a therapy setting, Holt said.

And since Mac began, more and more dogs have begun doing similar work throughout Canada.

“Across the country, PADS … has about 35 accredited facility dogs working in various settings. Some of them post-secondary like Mac, some of them work with victim services, long-term care facilities, things like that,” Doherty said. “But there’s hundreds across the world, now.”

In his time at the university, Mac has had 1,792 drop-in visits, 6,187 counselling sessions and over 12,000 meet-and-greets. University officials say he played a key role in 635 intensive therapy sessions and 12 critical incident and disaster relief deployments.

Of Mac’s retirement, Holt said, “It’s one of those life changes that’s unavoidable, but for sure, it’s very emotional.”

And he was a pup-ular dog at the reception, where he made many friends and enjoyed countless rubs.

Holt has adopted Mac, which she said is unusual for PADS dogs, as most work with persons with disabilities who need new assistance dogs.

In the meantime, she said she won’t be taking on another therapy dog while she and Mac enjoy the senior retriever’s golden years.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mac and his human handler Dawn Holt celebrated the senior golden retriever’s 15th birthday and his retirement as a therapy dog at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he pioneered therapy work 13 years ago. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Just Posted

Peachland residents march for better forest management

The Peachland march was one of many like it across B.C.

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

COVID-19 minimizes Okanagan Regional Library budget increase

Library adapts to pandemic fiscal disruptions

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read