Therapy dog who helped nurses through pandemic receives honorary ‘dogtorate’ from university

The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, but it was especially stressful for essential workers like doctors and nurses.

But thankfully one hospital had a very special staff member on hand to boost morale β€” and recently, she received an incredible honor.

Dr. Caroline Benzel is the owner of a 5-year-old Rottweiler named Loki, who has been loyally by her side throughout her years at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“The week that I had gotten her was the same week that I was accepted to medical school, so I started putting her through service dog level training, but I knew that I was going to be trying to make her a therapy dog for the hospital,” Dr. Benzel told KENS 5.

Loki was trained to comfort patients at the hospital and became an invaluable therapy dog. The owner says Loki was able to “handle all the machines” at the hospital, so she could work in any part of the hospital she was needed including trauma centers.

Loki played an even bigger part as the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020. Seeing how much stress health care workers were going through during those difficult days, Benzel and Loki decided to give back in an extraordinary way.

To boost morale, Loki and Benzel made and handed out self-care packages to nurses at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The kits included items like moisturizers, lip balm and granola bars.

“[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel told People in 2021, saying that the care packages were appreciated by the essential workers.

“It’s really cute to watch them sit on the floor, compare their goodies, and exchange different things,” Benzel said. “It really brightens their day.”

Loki helped her deliver the packages, dressed up in a lab coat, which no doubt helped to cheer them up as well.

“Rottweilers are considered ‘big and scary,’ but Loki shows that anyone can be kind and make a difference,” Benzel said.

The pair reportedly raised over $100,000 to make care packages throughout the pandemic. According to KENS 5, Loki and Benzel also provided virtual therapy sessions to the university’s health care workers during the pandemic.

β€œThe idea of having a therapy dog come in, especially when you’re in a really trying time in your life, truly makes such a difference for people,” Benzel said.
And that clearly has been shown by the way that the program itself has been expanding.”

Recently, Loki was given a heartwarming honor by the university in recognition of her hard work: she received an honorary “dogtorate” degree.

A special ceremony was held this week at the University of Maryland-Baltimore in honor of the special therapy dogs who have played such an important role at the university. Loki was one of the honorees, receiving her honorary degree with Dr. Benzel by her side.

Loki was presented with a “Dogtor of Medicine” for her work helping front line health care workers, and two other dogs received honors: Kylo Red was preseneted with a “Doctor of Pharmacy” and Kiera was presented with a “Juris Dogtor.”

The ceremony was held to “raise visibility of the service and therapy dogs and their handlers” by “honoring these special dogs.”

Loki brought so much joy to people during the pandemic, and continues to help others as a therapy dog β€” he definitely earned his “dogtorate”! Congrats to Loki on this great honor! πŸŽ“β€οΈ

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