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In Butler's animal-assisted therapy program, Scooter is making a difference for students

For anyone having a "ruff" day, one of the university's newest employees is happy to lend an ear.

INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday is National Therapy Animal Day, recognizing all the hard work and good deeds animals bring to others. 

At Butler University, it's all paws on deck for one very good boy. 

Scooter the dog is hard at work on campus daily, working in animal-assisted therapy. He's making a big difference for students, especially during finals week.

For anyone having a particularly "ruff day," one of Butler's newest employees is happy to lend an ear. 

Two, actually.

"And we talk," said junior Alexander Bullock.

"We do talk," added Morgan Evans, a freshman.

Thanks to Scooter, Butler is now offering animal-assisted therapy that's no bark, no bite. He's able to sit with students during sessions or to pal around with on a tough day. 

Credit: WTHR

"Definitely, I know I was looking forward to coming in this week," said Bullock.

Bullock and Evans have been coming to Scooter therapy for a while now. They say having Scooter around makes it easier to open up.

"I think any mental health resource that we can have is beneficial, and this is one of those extra things we have," Bullock said.

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Dr. Shana Markle coordinates the animal-assisted therapy program. She's also Scooter's mom.

"I have been here since 2011 and I'll have staff stop and say, 'Are you new here?' She'll say, 'No, but Scooter's new here,'" Markle said.

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Scooter has quickly become as well-known on campus as the Butler bulldog, a bright spot on campus wherever his paws take him.

"We'll have students run up to him and say, 'This is just what I needed today,' so, yeah, he's definitely had a lot of immediate impact. And faculty and staff also, they will stop and say, 'Can he just come through our building for a little bit today?'" Markle said.

To become qualified to help with animal-assisted therapy, Markle said Scooter had to go through a lot of training as a puppy. Now, she said he's been able to assist in individual and group therapy, helping students with everything from homesickness to trauma. 

"The students, if in therapy, there's a student who is anxious, he's a real calming force. If there's a student experiencing loss, he can be a real comfort," said Markle

Scooter has made a believer of any animal-assisted therapy skeptics on campus, surprising even Markle with the difference he's made. 

Credit: WTHR

"It's amazing that he will pick a student to sit with, and it will be a different student every week, and it happens to be the student who needs him most," Markle said.

With finals week well underway, students say they're grateful to have Scooter to turn to, knowing he's always happy to lend an ear. 

"He's a very good listener," Bullock said. "Treats or otherwise."

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