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    Uniformed Services University's Facility Dog’s Promotion a Howling Success

    Uniformed Services University's Facility Dog’s Promotion a Howling Success

    Photo By Thomas Balfour | Shetland, a Golden Retriever-Labrador mix, has his new rank pinned on during a...... read more read more



    Story by Ian Neligh 

    Uniformed Services University

    Every dog has its day.

    And for one lucky Golden Retriever-Labrador mix named Shetland, the first full-time medical school facility dog in the United States, it came on Aug. 18.

    The ever-enthusiastic three-and-a-half-year-old was recognized for his tireless hard work and dedication to his many duties at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and was promoted to the rank of Navy commander. The university originally commissioned the facility dog as a lieutenant commander in the Navy.

    While sitting at attention in uniform at the university’s Sanford Auditorium, and occasionally laying down, speakers applauded Shetland for his work ethic and many contributions to the university.

    Master of ceremonies Col. (Dr.) Catherine Kimball-Eayrs, the commandant of the USU School of Medicine, and one of Shetland’s handlers, said - to some - the promotion might seem to have come very quickly — given he first became a commissioned officer just two years before.
    “I’m going to point out that in dog years it’s been 14 years — so he’s actually a little behind the curve,” Kimball-Eayrs jokes.

    Air Force Col. (Dr.) Pamela Williams, associate dean for Student Affairs, said they never expected how successful the facility dog program would ultimately become.

    “He had consistently demonstrated the values of what a well-trained animal can bring to an institution like ours,” Williams says.

    Williams adds that whether it has been two years, or fourteen in dog years, it was important to reflect on all that Shetland has accomplished as the university’s facility dog during that time.

    “Shetland has partnered with the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine to put out a series of educational videos on ways dogs can provide support to individuals with anxiety and PTSD,” Williams says. “He has (also) served as the model for the military working dog exam instructional video.”

    According to Williams, during the distance learning period instituted because of COVID-19, Shetland found many ways to support students from afar such as sending notes signed with his actual paw print, holding weekly office hours, and taking part in special events like “painting with Shetland.”

    Brigade Commander Col. Patrick Donahue stood with Shetland in front of the assembled group of students, staff and visitors as he read the oath of office for the newly promoted facility dog.

    “…I, (Shetland) having been appointed a Commander, United States Navy, do solemnly swear that I will support and comfort all … That I take this obligation freely without any promise of treats after the promotion. I will faithfully discharge the duties of love, caring and comfort to all. So help me God,” Donahue said, concluding Shetland’s oath.

    Shetland then returned a (front paw) salute to his commanding officer to the sound of applause from the audience.


    Shetland became the school’s facility dog in 2019 to help promote education around animal-assisted interventions and provide comfort and support to USU students.

    Assistant Dean for USU’s Well-Being Program and Shetland’s custodian Dr. Kameha Bell, says she helped start the facility dog program to both help educate and provide support to students.

    “When we talk about Shetland and the role of the facility dog program, it’s a two-fold purpose: the first is to support education about animal-assisted interventions because we’re educating future care providers,” Bell says.

    Bell says having Shetland at the university provides an opportunity to not only talk about the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and a personal support animal — but also provide students with a firsthand experience.

    “Having an understanding and first-hand knowledge about animal assistance interventions is only going to benefit the students going down the road.” Bell says.

    “The second benefit is we also have this great animal to support our community’s wellbeing.”

    Continuing with his outreach efforts, Bell and Shetland visited the Australian Embassy on Aug. 24 where Shetland’s role was explained to staff members and Australia’s ambassador to the United States.

    Shetland was presented with an embassy coin and an Australian Forces patch — proving once again he’s the University’s top dog.



    Date Taken: 09.14.2021
    Date Posted: 09.14.2021 09:12
    Story ID: 405156
    Location: BETHESDA, MD, US 

    Web Views: 166
    Downloads: 2