The fanfare of applause and wagging tails will officially mark the opening of the new Pete’s Pet Posse Celebration Garden near the library in the heart of the Oklahoma State University Stillwater campus on National Dog Day, August 26. A larger-than-life statue depicting a Pete’s Pet Posse therapy dog and handler meeting with a smiling student was created by Oklahoma sculptor Jim Franklin as the centerpiece.
“The piece tries to capture that twinkle in the student’s face when she meets the therapy dog for the first time. We also see the dog’s excitement in being with the student, and the joy on the face of the handler watching the moment unfold,” Franklin said.
OSU’s First Lady Ann Hargis is one of the founders of Pete’s Pet Posse. She regularly works with her dog, Scruff, as part of the team.
“The pet therapy garden is a celebration of the special bond that the teams of dogs and owners/handlers have with our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Hargis said. “These dedicated volunteer teams bring immeasurable joy and a sense of family to Oklahoma State University, and we hope that same feeling is conveyed when visiting the garden.”
Pete’s Pet Posse was founded as part of the first lady’s wellness initiative working to make OSU America’s Healthiest Campus®. Pete’s Pet Posse, named after the university’s iconic mascot Pistol Pete, is the nation’s most comprehensive university-based pet therapy program with 56 dog/handler teams working full-time on three Oklahoma State University campuses in Stillwater and Tulsa. The OSU Foundation raised private funds for the garden to create a gathering space for dogs and their people with an eye for a dog-friendly landscape and a picturesque background, perfect for human-hound selfies.
Kirk Jewell is the president of the OSU Foundation and his wife, Jan, has been a posse member.
“I am so pleased to see the new Pete’s Pet Posse Garden completed!” he said. “It is a wonderful tribute to this very special program that touches lives all over this campus and the OSU system. Our schnauzer, Bella, was in the initial class, and our participation brought great joy to both Bella and Jan, as it does with all of the program participants.”
All of the Pete’s Pet Posse dogs are volunteers and live with their owner/handlers. Teams can be found in 34 different campus offices in addition to major gathering places such as the Student Union, library and student housing facilities. Their primary job falls into OSU’s land-grant mission of service to support the emotional well-being of the campus and to bring joy to those they encounter.
The statue unveiling will be held at 4:45 p.m. August 26 on the southwest side of the Edmon Low Library.