Over the last four years and through countless student interactions, Gracie Maize continues to bring joy to Concordia’s campus on a weekly basis.
Gracie Maize is a Therapy Dog, who is regularly at Concordia Ann Arbor Central and North campus. Gracie Maize, and her owner, Karen Baker, are part of CUAA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). CAPS is dedicated to helping students reach and maintain mental, physical, and spiritual health. Gracie Maize embraces her job with enthusiasm by giving comfort and joy to everyone.
A contagious spirit
Students appreciate Gracie Maize’s personality and spirit. Petting and rubbing Gracie Maize’s golden hair is comforting. When Gracie Maize approaches students with her joyful spirit, her energy is contagious. Even when students see her from a distance, they smile showing that Gracie Maize is bringing joy. She can also show silly behavior that is fun to laugh at. Like the time there were a large number of carved pumpkins displayed outside in front of the chapel for a charity fundraiser. Gracie Mazie was interested in looking at the pumpkins and clearly wanted to eat some of them.
The benefit of weekly visits
By coming on campus every week, Gracie Maize establishes relationships connecting with the same students. Every year, there are seniors who find Gracie Maize on their last day to give her a special goodbye. Students love it when Gracie Mazie shows that she recognizes them with her wagging tail and happy wiggles. There was a time Gracie Maize showed that she recognized a student, and Karen did not. They were volunteering at Ele’s Place, a center for grieving children, and Gracie Maize showed extra enthusiasm to a new volunteer. The young woman said, “Oh, Gracie Maize comes to my school.” Gracie Maize remembered seeing her at Concordia. The extra validation of love given to people she knows is rewarding.
Keen senses for comfort
Gracie Maize has a keen sense of emotions and she naturally wants to help. Students share how Gracie Maize gave them extra attention at a time when they were stressed about an exam. There was a time when Gracie Maize was calmly leaning against a student to show peace. This student shared how she was struggling with something, and Gracie Maize knew just what to do for her.
Likewise, there are students who greet Gracie Mazie with excitement, and she will match their behavior in showing joy. This last year, Gracie Maize was present for a dedicated time after chapel when a number of students were overwhelmed with sadness and shock when a senior, Caitlyn Mitchell, died suddenly. Gracie Maize approached some students more frequently than others like she knew who needed a little more snuggles. This perceptive intuition comes naturally to Gracie Maize, it was not part of her training.
However, Gracie Maize’s senses do not always let her know when comfort is needed from her. There are times when she misses giving extra attention to someone who could use some comfort, or she isn’t clear what it is about real stress. One time when Gracie Maize was participating with nursing students in a simulation at the North building, she showed attention to a student when it wasn’t necessary.
A small group of nursing students were acting out various mental health disorders during a “party” at the simulation apartment. In the two-way mirror, another group of nursing students was to guess each person’s assigned disorder. Gracie Maize was a guest at the party. When one of the students faked crying, Grace Maize tried to comfort her to stop. It’s hard to pretend to cry when a Golden Retriever is snuggled up to your face.
See Gracie Maize in action
Look out for Gracie Maize on central campus on Wednesday mornings-Karen and Gracie Maize attend Chapel (10:30-11:00am), then afterward can be found on the lawn outside the Chapel, in the Student Union Building, and walking around in nearby classrooms (11:00-12:30pm).
Look out for Gracie Maize in the North building on Thursday mornings- Karen and Gracie Maize weave their way through hallways and classrooms greeting students from 11:00-12:30.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Concordia University Ann Arbor is dedicated to helping students reach and maintain mental, physical, and spiritual health. College can be a major time of transition; it’s really common to have struggles along the way. It’s normal to want to talk to someone or get a little help working through things. Click on the link below to learn more.