Meet Runner! Concordia’s newest comfort dog has officially completed his training and is approved to begin work on campus as a licensed helping dog.

Earlier this month, Runner, a 2-year-old golden retriever, received a certificate of completion from Paws With a Cause. In addition to Runner, the university owns Zoey and Sage, both of whom are certified by LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries. Zoey, Concordia’s very first comfort dog, joined the campus staff in 2014 and recently entered semi-retirement. Sage joined Concordia in 2018 and is assigned to CUW’s Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate program.

Runner will replace Zoey as the designated working animal for Concordia’s Compassion Care Certificate program. This innovative certificate is the only program of its kind in Wisconsin and one of only a few nationwide. Its goal is to equip future educators and other professionals to provide trauma-informed care to the people they serve. The program includes Comfort Dog handler training and animal-assisted care.

Ten to 12 student handlers will be on Runner’s team next year, and they will begin training with him in the fall, says Elementary Education Department Chair Nicole Muth, PhD, who heads up the certificate program.  There are currently 15 students who are at different points in the Compassion Care Certificate. A few of the trained handlers will be working with Runner this spring in their practicum course.

“It is amazing to see the impact Runner has already had on our students and staff,” says Muth. “Runner is a friend who brings a calming influence, allowing people to let go of some of their stress and receive help for what is affecting them.”

What’s behind his name?

“Runner” is the name that Paws With a Cause gave him when he was born. An organization spokesperson said that, even as a pup, he was noticeably carefree and energetic. The name was meant to depict his spirit.

As an institution that is bound by the teachings of God’s Word, Muth and Dave Enters, who is director of counseling at CUW and very active in the comfort dog program, couldn’t help but also draw comparisons to Scriptures.

“A verse that immediately came to mind for us was Hebrews 12:1b-2a,” says Muth. “It reads, ‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ That’s what the Compassion Care program is all about: sharing the grace, peace, and love of Jesus as our source of perseverance through the joys and challenges of this life.”

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Want in?

Our world desperately needs compassionate caregivers to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a multitude of professional and personal vocations. Concordia’s 12-credit Compassion Care Certificate provides training in the art and skills of compassionate care. It is:

  • Is designed as an additive for students already enrolled in an education, social work, or psychology program at CUW
  • Consists of four courses (12 credits that may be completed within a year)
  • Includes opportunities for hands-on learning with Runner
  • Encompasses trauma-informed practices, social-emotional learning strategies, and lessons of compassion from the master teacher, Jesus

Contact your advisor or Dr. Muth at if you’re interested in entering the certificate program.