Meet Bodhi: Part Counselor, Part Cuddle Buddy

Meet Bodhi: Part Counselor, Part Cuddle Buddy

Bodhi is a 13-month-old Havanese and a member of UCF’s counseling team. Also known as a Havana silk dog, Bodhi’s job is to support students who may be sad, worried or stressed out about a range of things, from personal loss to the challenge of college life.

Bodhi joined the Counseling and Psychological Services  team this past year and he’s in the process of being registered as a therapy dog. Many large universities use dogs and cats to help reach out to their students. Harvard, Emory University and the University of California are among the growing list of schools that have dogs and cats as part of their counseling teams.

Bodhi has regular office hours and visits different parts of campus at peak times of stress – finals week and after a crisis, for example. This pup will be seeing students along with some of his furry friends from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 at the counseling center on the main campus.

So we asked Bodhi through his handler and dog mom, Valeska Wilson-Cathcart, the assistant director for administration and innovation at CAPS, to tell us a little bit about his duties and life at UCF.

How does a pup get into this kind of work? Can cats do it too?

You really just have to have the right temperament and need to be obedient, even in distracting situations. You also have to enjoy working with humans and be able to give lots of cuddles. Although we currently do not have any, there are therapy cats as well.

What is your typical day like?

I usually come into CAPS three times per week and work 8 a.m.-5 p.m. I typically spend a couple hours a day in the reception area greeting clients. I sometimes attend a few meetings where I don’t really understand all that is happening, so I just chew on my bone and then sometimes I sit in a session with a therapist and their client helping out the best way I can.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Meeting so many students that always seem so happy to see me. It makes me wag my tail.

What do you like to eat?

Well, I love the food I get for meals and snacks, but I also can’t resist paper – shredded paper, tissues and my personal business card are my favorites to chew on… You’ll also notice my mom pulling small sticks, random leaves, and acorns out of my mouth when we go on our walks.

When you’re not working, describe your ideal day off?

I like to maintain a healthy balance in life, so being at home to recharge and relax is what I do on my days off. Taking a nap on the coffee table is my favorite thing to do when I’m at home alone. I’m not supposed to sleep on the coffee table, you know.

Do you ever invite your friends to come to work with you?

Yes! A few times a semester, I invite my other therapy dog friends to come out and meet with students. We do the Paws-a-tively Stress Free events where students can come out and de-stress with us. My friends are awesome! They even came out at the last minute to help me support the Tower 1 students after the recent incident.

Where do you hang out when you are working at the Counseling Center?

Where do I not hang out is perhaps the better question. I’m very social at work, so I love visiting with all my co-workers.

What’s your favorite show on television?

Well, my mom always leaves QVC on for me when she leaves the house, but I prefer Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisper.”

When do you finish your training and graduate?

After being in training since I was 4 months old, I am so ready to graduate! I should be fully registered this summer.

What does registered mean?

Being a registered therapy dog means that I have passed an exam as well as met several criteria to be part of an awesome organization of my furry friends. When I pass the test, it shows that I am well-mannered, listen well and can behave appropriately with both my human and animal friends.…Right now I am working on containing my excitement when I see another furry friend.

You have such awesome hair. How often do you go to the groomer?

I usually go every two to three weeks for a mini-groom and occasionally get a full haircut when it gets too long. My mom spends a lot of time brushing me every day, because I love being pampered.

How do you get the word out about what you do at UCF?

Did you know that I have my own Facebook page? Feel free to like me! (www.facebook.com/bodhiucf)

How do you deal with stress?

We all get stressed, but I’ve figured out some ways that help me. My three top tips are: 1) to run, romp and play daily, 2) take naps and stretch before rising, and 3) to shake it off!  Stay tuned to my Facebook page for more tips.

What’s your favorite chew toy/game?

I love socks! I love chewing on all sorts of bones and squeaky toys. I also love the “box game” where my mom hides a treat in a box and I get to “sniff it out.”

The most important question: Which is better, a rub behind the ears or on the belly?”

I’ll take a belly rub any day! Come by and feel free to give me a belly rub anytime.