WATCH: Four-legged education pioneer retires
There was no ceremonial gold watch but there was cake and plenty of emotion during a unique retirement party at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) on Tuesday.
The institution was sending off a pioneer in his field — and a venerable one at that. Mac is signing off at age 105. In dog years, that is.
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Mac, short for MacBeth, is a K9 counsellor, the first of his kind at a post-secondary institution anywhere in the world. He’s also the longest-serving dog with the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society.
Mac’s human counterpart is Dawn Holt, a registered clinical counsellor who convinced the university to bring him aboard 13 years ago.
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“Why wouldn’t a post-secondary student need an animal therapist?” she asked. “Just because it’s not been done before, why shouldn’t it be?
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“We can be in a room full of people, and he will find the one person hurting the most and go to them without fail.”
The idea caught on quickly with students, some of whom told Global News that the draw of a non-judgmental animal got them through the door of the counsellor’s office.
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“I was not willing to go to counselling but when I found out there was a dog I could go see, I was all over it,” said Nikki Dionne, a student at UFV and client of Holt and Mac.
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With his professional career coming to an end, Mac will still be a presence on campus — though now as an alumnus and Holt’s companion.
She said retirement has already brought out a new spark in him.
“I can see, already, him let go of the mantle of responsibility and be a goof all the time,” she said.