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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Meet UB’s newest (and furriest) therapist

Therapy-dog-in-training becomes Veteran Services’ mainstay

Anyone walking into UB’s Veteran Services office will have a hard time missing Finn: he’s brown, curly-haired and has floppy ears. 

Finn, a therapy-dog-in-training, is the latest addition to the Veteran Services department and is already making some students’ days a little better. 

Dan Ryan, director of Veteran Services, is training the sixth-month-old puppy as a therapy dog to help support student veterans at UB.  Ryan first took over the Department of Veteran Services in 20132, as the university worked to better accommodate veteran students. His goal is to help student veterans find a comforting environment and build connections. 

“These are students who are 6 to 8 years older than their classmates,” Ryan said. “So a lot of those transition issues are challenging, and my job is to help make that transition as smooth as possible.”  

Ryan says he was inspired to bring in Finn as a therapy dog after his uncle, a World War II veteran, was admitted to hospice care. Ryan says he tried to visit as much as possible, but his uncle still spent 20 or more hours a day alone.  After seeing how much his uncle and other patients looked forward to interacting with the therapy animals, Ryan decided to bring that experience to students at UB. 

Student and veteran Nick Ferguson, a former army infantry soldier, says connecting with his peers is one of the toughest parts about coming back to school. Student veterans’ different experiences and older ages make it difficult to connect with their classmates. 

“Not everyone goes through the same experiences,” Ferguson said. “People come from different backgrounds, you can’t expect everyone to have the same mentality that you do.”  

Veteran Services have helped Ferguson and other veterans find a comforting space where they are greeted by a fluffy, tail-wagging companion and surrounded by people who share some of the same experiences.  

“It's always nice to have the dog to hang around with,” Ferguson says. “It always helps lighten your day up when you show up and there’s Finn.”

The features desk can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com 

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