For a moment, student Osiel Delgado thought a horse was in a courtyard at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College campus on Wednesday.
He discovered it was Ocho the Irish Wolfhound, a certified therapy dog, who made a visit for some quality time with students to help them with the stress of finals that cap the end of classes this week.
The Student Affairs Division, which this month announced a new initiative aimed at increasing the number of students who graduate in fours years, hosted Ocho.
“I thought it was a pony, but it seemed too big,” Delgado said. “Then I realized it was a dog.”
Ocho’s owner and handler, Katherine Brookbank Cox, said Ocho weighs 160 pounds and measures 3 feet high at the shoulders.
Carrying a thick book and a blue test booklet, Delgado said he spotted a crowd around Ocho as he walked to his final, which was just 30 minutes later, from the library. The senior stopped to take a picture with the Irish Wolfhound while holding a sign promoting the university’s social media outreach. He said he faced five exams during the end of this semester.
“I think it’s a great thing. It helps students forget the stress of finals,” Delgado said of the dog’s visit to campus. “It’s a good way to relax.”
Ocho is certified through the Pet Partners therapy animal program, according to his biography. He was born Feb. 1, 2010 the last puppy in a litter of eight.
“Don’t be afraid,” Brookbank Cox told the crowd of students on Wednesday.
Garnet Arrazolo, a freshman, smiled after petting the friendly dog.
“He made me forget about finals,” she said.
The student said she was also on her way to an exam before she met with Ocho. She said when she went to the ASPIRE program for help with an essay staff told her Ocho would be on campus.
“I love dogs,” she said. “I have one, but she’s small. … What makes him a therapy dog is you don’t see dogs like him and you can touch him without worrying he’ll bite you.”
Brookbank Cox said Ocho makes rounds as a volunteer at the Harlingen library and Brownsville’s Pullam Elementary where students learn to feel more comfortable with reading by reading to him. He also visits children in Valley Baptist Medical Center, she said.
On Wednesday, it seemed Ocho’s therapy session was a win-win: he received plenty of treats and lots of attention, while the humans on the other end escaped for just a moment.
“The more you hug him and hold him, the more comfortable he’ll get,” Brookbank Cox told the crowd.