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Dedicated service and therapy dogs receive honorary ‘dogtorate’ degrees from the University of Maryland, Baltimore

<i>University of Maryland
University of Maryland

By Ashley R. Williams, CNN

(CNN) — If every dog has its day, graduating with honorary “dogtorate” degrees marked that moment for a group of service and therapy dogs who have gone above and beyond.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore presented the dogs, dressed in their caps and gowns, with their special degrees alongside their handlers Tuesday at a ceremony reserved just for the devoted animals.

“Dogtor” Loki received her honorary Dogtorate of Medicine for extraordinary service during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the university.

The 5-year-old therapy Rottweiler’s owner, Caroline Benzel, graduated from the university’s school of medicine this year.

Benzel and Loki raised more than $100,000 for their “hero healing kits” to help offer relief to frontline health care workers in need of supplies like lotion, Vaseline, coffee and tea, the university said in a release.

Loki has won national awards, including from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for her efforts to grow the university’s therapy dog program.

“My family said they thought it was special that my dog was way more successful than I’ll ever be,” Benzel said at the ceremony, according to the university.

“I told them, ‘One year of medical school is seven dog years, so she probably should have a PhD as well,’” she said.

Loki’s memorable interactions with humans include comforting a dying mother at her bedside as the woman’s family traveled from a distance to join her.

“Loki ended up spending six hours with her head on her lap so the woman wouldn’t be alone,” Benzel said prior to the ceremony. “It shows that there’s a broad scope of what you can do with therapy work. It’s not just being there when they’re doing well, but also the worst times.”

Also honored at the special graduation ceremony were service dogs Kylo Red, a 3-year-old goldendoodle; and Kiera, a 6-year-old labradoodle.

Both service animals received their Dogtorate of Pharmacy and Juris Dogtor degrees, respectively, for offering “invaluable support to their handlers” as they pursued their degrees, according to the university.

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