Mookasaurus Rex – Gould’s Therapy Dog
It’s a drizzly, cold day, and students are hanging out in the cafe space downstairs in Hanscom Hall. Snuggled into one of the booths with the kids is a large, extremely fluffy golden retriever with a goofy look on his face. His name is Mookie, or @the_mookasaurusrex on Instagram.
Thanks to Denise and Rob Manning, Mookie is now the campus therapy dog.
“He just leans into you, and it’s very calming. So we thought that maybe he would be a good therapy dog.”
“We knew he had really good connections with kids,” says Rob, who is dean of student life. “Livy Clarke and Lily Weafer, both class of 2019, did an experiment where they would have someone come in and they’d take their blood pressure, and then Mookie would go in and they’d take the blood pressure and pulse again and it went down every time. He just leans into you, and it’s very calming. So we thought that maybe he would be a good therapy dog.”
When they first visited the breeder, she let the three puppies loose. “The two girls went ripping by our son, Alec ’14, who was sitting on the ground, and Mookie went right over and sat in his lap and wanted his throat scratched. Just like that, we knew that’s the dog. That’s why I’m convinced he connects so well to our students because he was more interested in connecting with people than he was with his littermates.”
So last spring, he and Denise took Mookie, now three, to Canine Good Citizenship class on Sundays. Once he passed that, he began therapy dog training. (He trained with Jill Simmons ’86, owner of PoeticGold Farm, who told the Mannings about Gould back when they lived in Indiana.)
Want to hang with Mookie?
The dogs have to get used to crutches and wheelchairs so they can go into hospitals, Rob explains. “So we had Sofia Machado ’22 in a wheelchair, pushing around and giving him treats. The kids really bought into helping him do this. Kids on crutches would call Mookie over so Mookie could get used to the crutches. This wasn’t just me or Denise; it was the students.”
Mookie is very trainable, says Rob. The Therapy Dog International test has many parts and is very demanding.
One of the final challenges is to walk by a sandwich while on a loose leash. “I mean, it’s this beautiful peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Rob adds, “and I said ‘Mookie, leave it,’ and he just went right around it.”
“Denise worked with him early,” says Rob. “That early training really got things started. Now he spends a lot of time with me. I bring him to my office every day. He doesn’t go to class because it’s too distracting for the students—even though he does lie down—but he’s very connected to humans.”
“When Mookie comes into the IDEAS Center, you see people’s faces just light up,” says Auburn Putz-Burton ’21. “And he loves the attention; he’ll go around the room so that everyone has a chance to pet him. In a challenging academic environment, I think it can be easy to get overwhelmed once in a while. Mookie can provide relief. It’s almost impossible not to smile around him. It’s awesome to have a dog like him on campus.”
When he passed his test, everybody cheered. Zach Schmolka ’22 posted it on his @DogsofGould Instagram account. Mookie has a special relationship with some students, Rob explains. He sees them and seeks them out. Others make a point of stopping by Rob’s office.
“Mookie can provide relief. It’s almost impossible not to smile around him. It’s awesome to have a dog like him on campus.”
“They will come into my office and sit and talk with him. He’s very good with students who struggle a little bit. Somehow, he senses it. He’ll also go up to the cafe space and just hang out. He’s just … he’s a mellow dog.”