Sad news, friends: Mac, one of UFV’s most valued staff members, will be retiring from his position as therapy dog later in February. Mac, a loving, lumbering golden retriever, was hired on in 2006 and has spent the last 13 years soothing the souls of the UFV community.
Mac was born into Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), an organization that breeds, raises, and trains dogs to assist those who need them. This could be in a retirement home, hospital, a private residence, or, like Mac, a university. PADS dogs are categorized in one of three ways: as facility therapy dogs (watching over nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s or other mental illnesses), as animal-assisted therapy dogs (helping rehabilitate patients’ motor skills or hand-eye coordination), or as therapeutic visitation dogs (providing a means to brighten someone’s day and help them through tough times). Mac is the latter, and what a tremendous job he’s done.
Mac, the star that he is, was the first therapy dog to work full-time in a university setting, and was in fact the first therapy dog in the world ever to do so. For the entirety of his career, Mac sat in with Dawn Holt while she provided students with therapy, and it’s safe to say he not only fulfilled, but surpassed, the expectations of his job. Aside from one-on-one therapy sessions, he worked hard to attend PAWS for a Break every Tuesday afternoon, where students were welcomed to come meet Mac, give him a pat, and forget about their troubles for a few minutes. Mac always had an ear to lend and a belly to scratch. He didn’t judge, he didn’t shame. He only smiled and listened like the good boy he is.
Even if Mac hadn’t been fantastic at his job, even if he wasn’t born into PADS and trained to be the best of the best, spending time with Mac would have been beneficial anyway, because spending time with dogs is inherently good for your health. According to HuffPost, having a dog (or dogs) close by can reduce your chance of heart trouble, decrease stress, help ward off depression, and provide you with purpose. As someone who owns dogs — and who was lucky enough to hang out with Mac on more than one occasion — I attest to the accuracy of these facts with a resounding yes.
Beyond all the health benefits, dogs are just so good. They’re there for you when you’re at your best and your worst, and when you can’t finish your dinner, they’re there too. So, just because Mac’s retiring, doesn’t mean he’s done his duty. Mac will continue to be a shining light off campus as well as on — he’ll still make his weekly appearance at PAWS for a Break, and will see students by appointment.
Mac, when you trade in your public access vest for a UFV T-shirt, remember that you always have, and always will be, a good boy who’s brightened thousands of students’ lives. The Cascade wishes you the best in your retirement. May these continue to be your golden years.
Image: Elyssa English/The Cascade