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

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

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

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: Time to slow down to speed up

In a society where we learn (are forced?) to multitask like crazy

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Shawnigan Lake School. (Citizen file photo)
Island Health reports COVID-19 exposure at Shawnigan Lake School

Shawnigan Lake School has been added to the list of schools in… Continue reading

Peas are great to grow in the garden, but a trellis for them in an A frame shape will offer more portability and wind resistance. (Citizen file)
Mary Lowther column: Making a foldable pea trellis on winter agenda

My previous methods required starting anew every spring

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Books open up a world of discovery

We try to eat dinner as a family every night. It happens… Continue reading

The Cowichan Tribes’ gymnasium at 5574 River Road is now operating as an extreme weather shelter. (Submitted photo)
New extreme weather shelter opens on River Road in Duncan

New facility should relieve some pressure on Warmland House

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read