Watch out, campus cats: Student working on plan for campus canines

By: Vantage Staff

When life gets stressful, few things make it better than petting, walking or tossing a few tennis balls for a goofy, happy dog.

That’s always been true for sophomore Matthew Revels, who grew up around labrador retrievers.

Now, Revels is trying to start a new program at Newman that would allow specially trained dogs to live on campus and be available to students who need a little canine companionship.

“Goose’s Therapy Pals” is the name Revels has come up with for the project, which he’s in the early stages of designing. He’s writing a proposal, but before the program could become a reality, it’d have to get approval on a variety of levels, including the President’s Cabinet.

“We have to figure out things like logistics, liability and insurance,” Revels said.

The idea took shape when Revels and his roommate in the dorm were sitting around wishing they had a dog to hang out with, Revels said. He knew that dogs often were trained to provide emotional comfort for people, and he started asking other students if being able to spend time with a dog would help them.

Revels began researching his idea and learned that other schools, including Oklahoma State University, already offered similar programs. At Newman, a student is allowed to bring a personal “emotional support animal” to live on campus with them, but aside from chasing down campus cats, there’s no way for an average student to get quality time with animals.

Revels said that, once he came up with the idea, he asked one of his psychology professors what he thought about it. The professor put Revels in touch with Kate Bussell, the director of student success, who pulled in Hank Lawski, Newman’s academic intervention specialist.

Lawski is helping Revels with his proposal, which he said he likes but will take some time to work its way through the system.

“There’s definitely been some research that shows it can have potential benefits,” Lawski said of the idea. “It’s just figuring out the logistics.”

Revel's idea is that, to start with, he’d get certified as a therapy dog handler and train a dog -- he imagines a golden retriever he’d name Goose -- to work as a therapy animal. The dog would live on campus and would be available for students to “check out” and spend time with. The safety of the students and the dog would be a top priority, Revels said.

Revel's long term goal, he said, is that every dorm could have a resident dog, and one could also live on the main campus. He’s hoping to get more students on board with his plan, especially those who’d like to get certified as handlers.

“Students have said before that, especially living away from home, they miss animals and miss their dogs, and having one on campus would make it more like a home environment,” he said. “A lot of people have been very supportive of the idea and have said they’d love to see it happen on campus, that they would love to be able to say hi to a dog, to see one on campus and be able to throw a few tennis balls.”

Revels said that any students interested in helping him see the project through should email him at

PHOTO: Matthew Revels, Sports Editor