Gracie, the new therapy dog in the Veterans Department, will be on hand in the upcoming school year to share her special brand of joy with CUW’s veteran and military students.

“It’s a dog’s life,” people sometimes say. But what does that mean? Turns out, back when dogs were more about work than companionship, it was meant as a negative. But these days, it’d be hard to imagine a dog with a sweeter life than Gracie.

Gracie, a 3-year-old (almost) English Labrador Retriever, is now a consistent presence at the Howard J. Bogenschild Veteran and Military Affiliated Resource Center on the CUW campus. Her job description? “She just hangs out here, and all the veterans get to love on her, and hang out with her,” said Gracie’s owner, Mikayla Allsop (’25). “She’s also going to be part of our social media campaign in the fall, to help bring in more students.”

Allsop, a marketing major who spent time in the U.S. Navy before transferring to CUW from Alverno College, said her family has always had Labrador retrievers, and was happy to offer Gracie’s services when she had the idea for a veterans comfort.

“I have a perfect dog at home, who would love to come in!” she said at the time. Keith Casey, Director of CUW Veteran Services, liked the idea, telling Allsop to “do your research” before putting together a formal proposal. Once the CUW administration signed off, it was all systems go.

Pilot pooch

Unlike Zoey and Runner, CUW’s official comfort dogs, Gracie does not have any special certifications. But she was required to pass a “good citizenship test” at a local dog training center. “She passed with flying colors,” Allsop said. If you’ve already met Gracie, you likely know her to be exceptionally friendly, calm, and, well behaved. In other words, the perfect personality for doing the “work” she’s been assigned.

Because Gracie is Allsop’s personal dog, she will be leaving next spring when Allsop graduates. That’s sad for Gracie fans, but it works out well for a potentially long-term canine addition to the Resource Center staff. “We’re looking at this as a pilot program,” Casey said, “to see if it’s feasible to continue to have a therapy dog in the Resource Center, and see if we can find a sponsor to provide some funding.”

So far, in just the few months since Gracie started in March, you’d have to consider the program a success.

“I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t loved her,” Allsop said. “She’s very good at picking up emotions and matching the energy of whoever she’s with.”

In case you’re wondering, no, you don’t have to be a veteran to come and meet Gracie. For one thing, she’s often out and about on campus taking walks with Allsop or Casey. And anyone is welcome to stop by the Veterans Resource Center (in the lower level of Rincker Hall) to say hello.

While you’re there loving on Gracie, just be sure to take a moment to learn about all the great work that goes into making CUW a top Military Friendly school year after year. And to thank a veteran student for the sacrifices they’ve made to help protect our freedoms!

Want in?

Concordia University Wisconsin is a Lutheran higher education community committed to helping students develop in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and the world. To learn more about our Military Friendly campus and all we do to support veteran and military students, click the link below.