WKU Counseling Center’s therapy dog passes away after 6 years of service


Photo provided by Peggy Crowe.

Alexandria Anderson, News reporter

Star, the WKU Counseling Center’s Animal Assisted Therapy dog, passed away on Feb. 11, leaving behind a legacy of comfort, love and support for the WKU community and Counseling Center.

Star came to the Counseling Center at just seven weeks old in October of 2015 and was trained to work in the Animal Assisted Therapy program by now retired staff member Betsy Pierce. 

Pierce brought the idea for AAT to the Counseling Center in the spring of 2015, and after obtaining Star in the coming months, worked tirelessly to appropriately train herself and Star as well as bring her to countless community outreach events.

Elizabeth Madariaga, a staff counselor, became Star’s caregiver after Pierce retired. She continued care and support for Star and made sure to continue her impact through other countless outreach events.

Her fur was comforting, her demeanor was calm, she was intuitive and empathetic. She helped to provide that calming presence.”

— Elizabeth Madariaga

Madariaga explained why she believes Star was so important to both the Counseling Center and WKU community. 

“Star offered emotional support to students and the community in situations and in times that might be high stress or anxiety. She was there in the most basic way of being present, of just allowing students to lean into her,” Madariaga said. “She would be involved as much or as little as the student wanted during sessions and she provided an unspoken support for the student. Her fur was comforting, her demeanor was calm, she was intuitive and empathetic. She helped to provide that calming presence.”

Photo provided by Peggy Crowe.

Star had an important role at the counseling center to lessen anxiety and depression symptoms by supporting patients during their appointments. She was available to all clients by request, and all staff therapists had access to her services. One of Madariaga’s favorite moments with Star concerns how excited she was to always be around people.

“It’s really so hard to specifically come up with one specific memory,” Madariaga said. “But generally, when she would come into the office after the weekend she would get so excited to see her people in the office, she would run up and down the hall to see people and would go into each office to visit with people in the morning. She was so full of life and love.”

Star’s memory will live on through the love and support she brought to students and staff. It is in her memory that Madariaga wanted to stress that there is a compassionate, hopeful environment available for all students at the Counseling Center.

“I hope that Star is remembered for her love for people. She loved being around students and loved that people wanted to pet on her. She thought everyone should,” Madariaga said. “We want what she meant to the center and campus to be continued even though she crossed the rainbow bridge. We want her memory to help students remember that they aren’t alone and have support at the center.”

Star’s legacy is shown clearly through the members of the WKU community that were affected by her presence and support, and it is clear that she will not be forgotten.

“Star had a great life, she was covered in love by the students and people in the center who loved her greatly,” Madariaga said. “She was good at her work and more than a dog–she was a part of the family.”

 News reporter Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected]