Amid Tragedy, OSU's Pet Posse Is Therapy For Grieving, Confused Students
STILLWATER, Oklahoma - Oklahoma State University and the city of Stillwater are hosting a community-wide memorial service next Tuesday to honor the four people killed in Saturday's homecoming parade crash.
To help with the grieving process, Pete's Pet Posse is bringing a little comfort to the campus.
OSU's pet therapy program has been on campus for two years, but it's helping more students this week than ever before.
“It's been incredibly sad,” OSU Director of Counseling Suzanne Burks said. “It's also been a very intense week.”
Special Coverage: OSU Homecoming Tragedy
The week is winding down, but Burks said the healing process at Oklahoma State University is only beginning.
“You always have to take time to grieve,” Burks said. “…You can't wipe those images out of your mind, those sounds, the things that you've seen. That takes time.”
And while nothing can lift a heavy heart instantly for some, a dog can ease the pain temporarily.
“I'm one of those people that bottles everything up inside, and just sitting with the dog... they can kind of sense you're going through something and if you need someone by you,” OSU freshman Sarah Riley said.
And for that reason, OSU has 22 certified, campus ID-carrying therapy dogs that spend time on campus each week.
They're part of a university volunteer program called Pete's Pet Posse, or P3 for short.
“It's just nice having someone there, and so I think the dogs do that and it helps people get through stuff,” Riley said.
The dogs help relieve stress, make homesick students feel better and simply give folks a reason to smile.
But this week, smiles have been hard to come by after a car crashed into the crowd during OSU's homecoming parade on Saturday.
Three adults and a 2-year-old boy were killed, nearly 50 others injured, and it happened just two blocks from campus.
“It's a lot more up close and personal when you've got the victims right there and you're talking to people and families,” Burks said.
So P3 is teaming up with OSU counselors.
And Burks said the dogs have helped bring in both students and staff who typically wouldn’t stop by.
“The dogs relax them, and I think the dogs also let them know it's a safe place to be,” she said. “…You can wait for 5 or 10 minutes and just kind of quietly say, 'Would you like to talk to somebody?' And they'll be like, 'Yeah. Yeah.'”
And once that conversation starts, Burks said the heart truly can begin to heal.
10/24/2015 Related Story: Homecoming Heartbreak: Tears Fall For OSU Family Again