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'Man's best friend'

An MVNU education professor and his dogs are bringing comfort and companionship to the classrooms and sidewalks of campus.

Dr. Stephen Metcalfe, a professor in the Education Department, is a recognizable figure on campus from his time spent walking his two Golden Retrievers, Duncan and Murphy.

Metcalfe teaches Learner and the Learning Process, Inclusion and Differentiated Instruction, History and Philosophy of Education, and Educational Psychology.

In these classes, Duncan and Murphy are frequent object lessons, real life examples and therapy dogs. The dogs are great models for the discussions on learning theory as students interact with the animals and try to teach them specific behaviors, Metcalfe said.

“Both dogs have been in my classes, and have been directly or indirectly connected to the principles of what I teach,” Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe has also used the dogs with small groups to show how principles that appear straightforward on paper do not always play out as expected in real life.

He also noted that bringing the dogs onto campus is beneficial to both the dogs and the students’ emotions and social lives. Students say the animals help them deal with stress.

“The biggest impact for me is that they make me forget about a bad day or the stresses of college,” junior Mitch Sellers, a student in Metcalfe’s class, said. “They’re always so happy when they’re with Steve and for some reason whenever you see that trio, you have to crack a smile. It’s contagious.”

Students outside Metcalfe’s classes also enjoy stopping their daily activities to love on the two dogs. “I don’t know how many students, who I don’t have in classes, have stopped and asked just to pet the dogs and have said something to the effect that they miss their dogs back home,” Metcalfe said. “I always offer mine as surrogate, and they love the attention and respond well.”

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