This Is Carolina: Coastal Carolina University welcomes four-legged staff member

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - It wasn’t a smooth transition starting college at first for Coastal Carolina University senior Alexis Mulero, because she said she didn’t know people and missed her pet.

But, that changed for students this year, thanks to a four-legged colleague named, Treasure.

“I met her and I fell in love with her. I’m so excited that we finally have a dog,” said Mulero.

The certified therapy dog is the newest addition to the Life Program at CCU which is geared toward students who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Mulero said she’s studying to become a veterinarian and believes Treasure will become her new study buddy.

“She’s going to help me do good and help me study for tests because I’m not good at studying but now I have her. She’s now going to help me,” she said.

Treasure will actually provide support for all 34 students in the program, where they live on campus, attend university classes and become more comfortable in uncomfortable settings.

“A lot of our students, this is the first time that they actually are staying and living away from mom and dad,” said Jacklyn Masiello, Life Program Student Training and Development Coordinator.

Masiello oversees the four-year residential program that’s only offered to 16 schools in the country and CCU is one of them.

“This is where they’re learning to do independent living, household management, time and organizational skills, with the goal that they’re going to leave us and they’re going to live as independently as they can, with a prevailing wage and a job that’s meaningful to them,” said Masiello.

Masiello said Treasure will only help with that goal.

She rescued her from the Horry County Animal Care Center in March after someone dumped her and her puppies on the road last November. The shelter cared for the kind canine who was covered in worms, fleas, ticks and heartworms, before staff perfectly matched her with Masiello. She and her students then carefully selected Treasure’s name which fits her to a tee.

“It kind of went along with their slogan of ‘life’s little treasure,’ tying back into the Life Program here at Coastal,” she said.

Treasure’s rigorous training quickly began.

“She really started to learn how to work with different devices; wheelchairs, crutches and walkers. And, understanding the rules and regulations that she must abide by,” she said.

Masiello said studies show just 10 minutes of interaction with a certified therapy dog can increase serotonins, endorphins and reduce depression for about six weeks.

Treasure now spends her time at the learning lab, where she is available to all students who need a little extra support. And, as the new school year gets underway, it’ll be a new lease on life for both students and man’s best friend.

“I think it’s really awesome that Treasure was able to be rescued and given a second chance. And, I think a lot of our students within our program that come to us, college is a second chance for them,” said Masiello.

The Life Program accepts 10 to 12 freshmen every year. Click here if you would like to learn more about the program and how to apply.

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