The sad day is approaching when Concordia will lose one of its most dogged workers to retirement.

CUW’s inaugural LCC K-9 Comfort Dog, Zoey, who joined the CUW community in 2014, will unofficially hang up her comfort vest in summer 2021 and significantly cut back her hours to a part-time basis.

Before that time, however, Concordia is launching an effort to grow its Comfort Dog Ministry by four more furry paws. Today, a crowdfunding page to raise money for a new LCC K-9 Comfort Dog went live.

Supporters can donate here

Concordia University currently owns two purebred Golden Retrievers, Zoey and Sage, who came highly trained and certified by Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) for the job of serving as working animals on campus and beyond. The comfort dogs are equipped to interact with people of all ages and circumstances who are suffering and in need. They serve as a bridge for compassionate ministry between the handlers and individuals served.

Concordia was the first college in the nation to employ a full-time, certified comfort dog on campus and it remains one of the only colleges or universities in the U.S. to integrate its working dogs into academic programming and student life offerings to the degree that it does. Zoey and Sage each work full time, logging between 35 to 40 hours in an average week on behalf of Concordia. They even have office hours, a uniform, business cards, and a Falcon 1 card.

Wisconsin’s only Compassion Care Concentration

Similarly, the new furry worker will serve students on campus and within the community by providing emotional support through an ever-patient demeanor and calming presence. In addition, the new worker will be a resource for CUW’s School of Education and athletic training program when the university launches the state’s sole Compassion Care Concentration.

The concentration:

  • Is designed as an additive for students already enrolled in an education or athletic training program at CUW
  • Will consist of four courses (12 credits that may be completed within a year)
  • Is slated to launch in fall 2021
  • Can only admit 10 student handlers, per LCC protocols, but student “shadowers” will also have opportunity to enroll in the program

The goal of the concentration is to equip future educators or athletic trainers to provide compassionate, trauma-informed care to those whom they’ll serve.

“Research shows that building one’s capacity for compassion helps them to become a better leader,” says Dean of Education Dr. James Pingel II. “Compassionate leaders build cultures which are more collaborative, trustworthy, relationship-oriented, and empathetic.

Students who graduate from the program would be in a position to either purchase their own certified comfort dog to use within their workplaces or serve as an experienced director of a school-funded program. Even without the use of a working dog, the concentration promises lessons and experiences that prove invaluable in today’s day and age.

“This is a really critical concentration for our students to have,” says Pingel. “Principals and superintendents are now preferring that teaching candidates have trauma-informed care as a background due to growing depression and anxiety rates among teens. As a Lutheran university, Concordia is in a unique position to extend Christian love and care to individuals in need and impart a message of hope that surpasses any of life’s troubles.”

Learn more about Concordia’s School of Education offerings here or explore CUW’s Athletic Training program here.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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