ActivePaper Archive DOGS FOR A CAUSE - Oklahoman, 10/24/2016

DOGS FOR A CAUSE

Pete's Pet Posse offers comfort to those affected by OSU tragedy

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Melissa Garner, executive administrative assistant in the office of Institutional Research and Information Management, pets therapy dog Evie during an office visit Evie, a member of Pete's Pet Posse, is owned by OSU employee Lorinda Schrammel. [PHOTO BY KURT STEISS FOR THE OKLAHOMAN]

TRAGEDY AND RESPONSE

Four people died and more than 40 others were injured Oct. 24, 2015, after a driver smashed her car into a crowd watching the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade.

Killed were retired OSU professor Marvin Stone, 65, and his wife and OSU employee Bonnie Stone, 65; Nash

Lucas, 2, son of OSU student and employee Nicolette Strauch; and University of Central Oklahoma student Nakita Nakal, 23.

The registered therapy dogs known as Pete's Pet Posse worked in tandem with the OSU University Counseling staff. They reached out to the OSU Police officers who covered the crash, employees at the campus offices where those who died had worked, crowds in the Student Union and

many others across campus.

The OSU counselors said the dogs

were able to draw people out to seek help and accept counseling. Students

said "talking" with the dogs made them feel better and closer to home during that traumatic time.

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Ann Hargis walks her therapy dog, Scruff, on the Oklahoma State University campus. [PHOTOS BY KURT STEISS FOR THE OKLAHOMAN]

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A student pets Scruff during a visit to the Oklahoma State University Student Union. Scruff is a member of Pete's Pet Posse.

STILLWATER - Bonnie Stone's co- workers still were in shock when they

returned to the office two days after her tragic death.

They didn't know what to say to each other or how to get back to work. Noth- ing seemed normal.

"It really hasn't been completely (normal) since," Doug Reed said. "Bon- nie and I worked together 20 years."

Bonnie Stone worked in the office of institutional research and information management at Oklahoma State Uni- versity. Her husband, retired OSU pro-

fessor Marvin Stone, came to the office

every day to share lunch and conversa-

tion with her.

"I really got to know him the last

couple of years because he was up here quite a bit," Reed said.

The Stones were among four spec- tators killed in the OSU homecoming parade crash one year ago today.

TWO days later

"We came over that Monday morning and it was the first time back for every- body in the office to see each other," OSU first lady Ann Hargis said.

She and her therapy dog, Scruff, were

among those who responded.

"Somebody brought us breakfast," said Rhoda Hughes, who worked 29

years with Bonnie Stone. "We got together and were able to express our feelings."

When she puts on the vest, she is going to Work. She is happy. I think she does it because they saved her and it's her turn to save back."
Lorinda Schrammel, on Evie, a member of pete's pet Posse

Then came the dogs and

their handlers, known as

Pete's Pet Posse.

"The timing was great with the breakfast and the dogs. It helped us," Hughes said.

"I almost called in sick but I came in, and with all that it turned out to be a better day," she said.

Melissa Garner had joined the staff just one month earlier, but said she already felt like part of the family.

"I didn't know what to say because I had only known her for a little while. What can you say to comfort someone like that?" Garner said.

"So if you just go to the dog, you don't have to talk. You can just sit there and quietly stroke," she said, "and if you need to cry, you can cry."

Garner shed a few more tears as she talked about that day.

"It's still so raw," she said. "And I'm sure it is for them (Reed and Hughes) because they spent years and years together.

One year later

Scruff, still on the job, came over to Garner and sat by her side as she recalled the first day back. The therapy dogs allowed her to feel normal and even smile, she said.

Members of Pete's Pet Posse visited the office often that week and have continued to come throughout the year.

"It's a nice distraction," Reed said. "It kind of takes your mind off what's going on a little bit."

A bulletin board hanging in the hallway documents the many visits and serves as a remembrance of Bon- me Stone. The photos show her co-workers pet- ting the dogs and smiling.

"I don't know how they sense when somebody needs them to come visit, " Hargis said. But the dogs go without hesitation.

The dogs greet people across campus every day, good days and bad. When responding to a tragedy, they are accompanied by professional counselors.

"We're not saving the world ourselves," Har- gis said. "It's definitely the counselors who are making the inroads, but these guys are just a real good conduit. You find the counselors petting the dogs, too."

To be continued

There are 28 registered therapy dogs on the Still- water campus and a dozen more at OSU's two cam- puses in Tulsa. Students, faculty and staff have come to know many by name.

"They don't talk to us, they talk to the dogs," said Lorinda Schrammel, who works in the human resources department. Her shepherd mix, Evie, and Scruff were among the dogs in the first training class.

"She loves her job," Schrammel said. "She's a wiggle worm when the vest comes out."

Evie was brought to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital after she survived the spring 2013 tornado near Shawnee.

"When she puts on that vest, she is going to work. She is happy," Schrammel said. "I think she does it because they saved her and it's her turn to save back."

Scruff, a terrier mix, also was treated at the teaching hospital after he was shot and rescued by students who brought him to campus.

"He was everybody's dog and nobody's dog," Hargis said. "He just became the perfect dog at the perfect time for us."

Today, Scruff is known across campus as the first family's dog - and a really good listener.