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Riverside, Calif. (Jan. 2, 2014) -- Rugar is the top dog on campus. Never mind that he is the only dog allowed on campus at California Baptist University.

His owner is Dr. Juliann Perdue, professor of nursing, who got him about a year ago when he was 8 weeks old. Perdue loves animals, but she does not bring Rugar to work just for the company. When she acquired him, her intent, with prior approval from the dean of the School of Nursing, was to train him to be a Certified Therapy Dog.

Perdue heard about therapy dogs a couple of years ago when she attended a nursing conference on holistic nursing. The benefits of therapy dogs include helping mental health patients relax, providing a calm atmosphere for the elderly so they will eat better and motivating patients in physical therapy, she said.

"I love animals and I really believe in animal-assisted therapy," Perdue said. "There's a lot of evidence-based research out there that shows it helps patients' outcomes."

Both of them went through training. Perdue took an online course and is certified in animal-assisted therapy. Rugar went through puppy training and earned his Canine Good Citizenship. Last month he trained and was tested to become a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are certified by Therapy Dogs International (TDI). Tests include not being scared by loud noises, not going after food when it's on the floor, and sitting and staying while the owner walks away.

Rugar passed. When he is on duty, he wears a vest made by the company that makes the school's nursing uniforms, although he will also be getting a bandana from TDI.

Now that Rugar is certified, Perdue plans to ask School of Nursing's hospital affiliates if she can take him into the facilities so nursing students can see how a dog can help patients. Later, she wants to do animal-assisted therapy, which includes a therapeutic plan with objectives to meet.

Rugar comes with Perdue to work several days a week, and he has already provided therapy on campus.

"I've also had faculty request him before tests. They'll say, the class is having a test, will you bring Rugar in? So I'll go 15 minutes before the test is to start, and we'll circulate the room and let them all pet him," she said. "Right now we just are doing it for our nursing students, but we're willing to go help anybody. When we walk across campus, students are always stopping to say ‘can I pet him?' "