Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS)

About PAWS@Mac

PAWS@Mac is Macalester’s therapy dog program that provides safe and friendly spaces for students, staff, and faculty to interact and de-stress with certified therapy dogs.  It was founded by Dr. Steph (from HWC), who wanted to share her therapy dog Kevin with the Mac community. She wrote a proposal to fund the training of student handlers and asked to bring him to campus two days a week as a pilot program in 2015-2016.  HWC provided the funding and many people at Macalester have welcomed him–and other additions to the PAWS team–with open arms.

Where Do They Work?

Be sure to follow them on the PawsatMac Instagram and/or the PawsatMac Facebook page for updates!

Ruff(!) Schedule for Spring 2019:

Kevin in the Library from 12:30 pm ― 1:00 pm on Tuesdays

Will in the Library from 1:00 pm ― 2:00 pm on Fridays

Koski in ORLI Smail Gallery from 12:00 pm ― 12:30 pm on Wednesdays

Bubba in the Campus Center from 11:30 am ― 12:00 pm on Tuesdays

Leo – see social media for times and locations

About the Dogs

The PAWS team consists of five certified therapy dogs and their handlers. Kevin with Dr. Steph, Koski with Denise from Health and Wellness, Will with Cheryl Doucette from Advancement, Bubba with Ann Warren from Advancement, and Leo with Andi Wulff from Special Events.

Kevin is Dr. Steph’s 7-year-old golden retriever. He lives with Steph, her husband Ryan, and their two kids Elliot and Sydney. He is much loved by their whole family and has been brightening their lives since 2011.

Kevin is named by Dr. Steph’s kids for the rainbow bird in the Pixar movie Up. The dog’s name in that film was Dug, but the kids felt the rainbow bird had more charisma and a better name. He loves jelly toast and empty yogurt containers as favorite treats. He appreciates petting of all sorts and especially loves kids. His first 2 years of therapy work have been on Dr. Steph’s days away from Mac, where she volunteered (and still does) with him at an elementary school in St. Louis Park.

Koski is a 6 year old vizsla (AKA Hungarian Yellow Pointer) who is a family member of Denise Ward, Assoc. Dean for Student Services and director of the Hamre Center for Health & Wellness at Macalester. He lives with Denise and her husband, Jon and occasionally their kids and partners, Caitlin and Charlie. Other dogs that are regularly in the house, courtesy of Caitlin and Charlie, include 2 vizslas, Ila and Palmer, and a Tibetan mastiff, Betty.  Koski is named for the trout stream that goes through family property up on the north shore of Minnesota.

Koski started therapy work in 2018. His other activities include nose work, AKA scent training (nothing exciting, just essential oils and not drugs or guns!), and he also has been trained for shed hunting (deer antlers). Mostly he epitomizes the vizsla traits of loving to run, chase tennis balls, smell for things, and being a “velcro dog” – they love to be right next to their people. He will eat anything (napkins and tissues are his favorite non-food items) but he especially loves peanut butter. When someone comes into the house, Koski has to bring something to them – usually a shoe. So a not-so-favorite human pastime in the Ward house is hunting for missing shoes!

Will was born on May 11, 2017. His full name is Sir William, he is also known as Wild Will by people who know him well. He’s a big blond boy who hasn’t quite filled out yet.  He has been enrolled in classes most of his life and is currently enrolled in an ongoing Novice class at Bloomington Obedience Training Club. He has his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and his Novice Trick Title from the American Kennel Club. He has recently begun training in agility and is working on getting his Intermediate Trick Title this spring. He loves to retrieve tennis balls (or anything else you throw) and go for long walks and car rides.

He passed the Alliance of Therapy Dog test on his first birthday.  Besides regular visits to Macalester, he is a regular in the Abbott Northwestern Behavioral Health Unit. He also visits senior citizens on a monthly basis. He has a rather enthusiastic visiting style but he has learned that when he is working, he needs to be calmer. He also has a knack of seeking out the person in the crowd that needs him the most.

The only thing Bubba’s mom knew when she adopted him was his name and the year he was born. Bubba the Shar-Pei came with his name, and he was born in 2010. In 2012 he was given away on Craigslist and the woman who took him dropped him off at a small shelter in Willmar, Minnesota 10 days later.  The shelter workers called a Pei rescue in the Twin Cities, and they called Ann to foster him. Within 24 hours Ann knew Bubba was a great dog and started the process of adoption. Bubba loves going to dog training classes. After exhausting all the obedience and fun classes, an instructor encouraged them to study and test to be a therapy dog team. They passed with flying colors.

When not working at his therapy dog duties, Bubba enjoys chewing the arms, legs, and ears off of toys, going for long walks anywhere, and pretending to be a wild, feral dog at the dog park.  His favorite game is chase. He loves rolling in stinky mud puddles during the warm months and gives schnurfles to people who smell particularly interesting. He does not like wearing his boots in the winter but he’s got very delicate feet and he bears it nobly. He is a proud member of his ancient breed.

In 2009, at about 1 year old, Leo found himself in a shelter after being picked up as a stray. Having lived in several foster homes with Minnesota Wisconsin Collie Rescue, he became a bit of a problem child. Though very friendly, he had never been taught any manners and he favored immediate gratification by pulling and lunging. Leo’s last foster person and adopter, Andi Wulff from Special Events, helped him find some self-control and manners through training in obedience and herding.  Leo has earned Intermediate titles on both sheep and ducks in herding and is semi-retired from the sport. He has been a social therapy dog since 2012, and still gets excited to come to school to visit with Macalester students. Ever gregarious, Leo lives with two other herding breed dogs and three cats.

Retired Dogs

Finnegan is a 13 (almost 14!) year-old Golden Retriever. He is fairly dark red and he weighs about 52 pounds. Cheryl has had him since 2006 when he was surrendered to a rescue because he was a wild child. He was….and still is a wild boy, but he is also incredibly sweet. He’s had a lot of training and used to do agility. He has been a therapy dog since early 2009. He was a regular in the Abbott Northwestern Behavioral Health Unit and he visits senior citizens on a monthly basis as well. He is the best therapy dog she has handled as he is very tuned into people. While he no longer visits Macalester, he is still doing well and is semi-retired from therapy dog work. He still walks a few miles every week.   

Murray was born to be a therapy dog. He was born on March 11, 2014. One of the first things I did with him was bring him to Dog Days on Bateman Plaza. He fell asleep in someone’s arms and the students passed him around, he was just a baby and he already loved people. He became a therapy dog on his first birthday and it didn’t even take any training. He just loved everyone he met. He didn’t like obedience class, he didn’t like agility, he didn’t even really like to go for walks. No retrieving for this guy either….although he was 100 percent Golden Retriever. He just wanted to be petted. He wasn’t perfect, he was hard to housebreak and he ate cloth and toys, a habit he never outgrew. But he never went through the mouthing or the biting that most puppies go through, so in some ways he was an easy puppy.

Shortly before his second birthday he started limping. Despite thousands of dollars of vetting, nobody could figure things out. Early in 2018 he became seriously ill….and this time he was diagnosed with cancer…everywhere. He died a month before his fourth birthday.

Murray was in the Morris Foundation Lifetime Study….a study that is following 3,000 Golden Retrievers in the U.S. through their life. (Google it, it’s a really cool study.) Once a year, the dogs have a very extensive vet exam and after death, the study gets all the results from the final testing that was done after he died. Hopefully this study will learn something from Murray’s early death (and from the others as they die) so future generations of dogs can lead healthier lives.

About Therapy Training

Many local training facilities offer therapy dog classes and certification. Most are 6-12 weeks plus a test at the end, and most have pre-requisites of obedience classes series and/or passing the Canine Good Citizen test.

The Animal Humane Society and Canine Coach are two places that offer classes for dogs, but you and your pet can chart your own path as well. Kevin completed his puppy kindergarten, Obedience 1 and 2 classes at The Canine Coach, and then became eligible to participate in their course for aspiring therapy dogs.

He passed his Therapy Dog International certification exam in 2012 and has been working ever since.  Other owners have used North Star Therapy Animals or Pet Partners to certify.

If you are interested in joining PAWS@Mac or have questions on the process of becoming a therapy pet, please contact paws@macalester.edu.

Student Coordinator

Brooke Offenhauser ’21, the PAWS@Mac student coordinator, is a Neuroscience and Psychology double major on the Pre-Med track who is from Cottage Grove, MN. As a part of her job at Health Promotion, she meets and works closely with Steph and the other handlers to schedule and plan PAWS@Mac events. She coordinates communication and outreach, helps manage the PAWS social media, and manages daily operations. With any questions, you can contact her at boffenha@macalester.edu or paws@macalester.edu.

Contact Info

To invite Kevin to your event, class, or to learn more about Macalester’s therapy dog program contact .