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Oklahoma woman bringing comfort to students, faculty by creating “pet posse” program

STILLWATER, Okla. - The sweet sound of ringing chimes on a university campus are inviting and soothing.

But sometimes college life can hit a sour note for kids trying to adjust to life away from home for the first time.

"This is Scruff. Scruff, can you say 'hi?'" said Oklahoma State University's first cowgirl, Ann Hargis.

She and her therapy dog are on a mission. To bring a little home-front comfort to students and faculty through special four-legged friends.

Ann is helping to spearhead Pete's Pet Posse, where dozens of handlers and dogs spread out all over campus.

Those that volunteer with her say the mission is simple.

"It brings a piece of home to them. It allows them a piece of comfort when they're stressed. Most of the time it's really happy and fun and exciting but sometimes it takes a little bit more and we're mindful of that," said Kendria Cost, a volunteer with Pete's Pet Posse.

Andrew, another therapy dog, is part of the posse. He helps makes life a little easier to cope with the frenetic pace of finals week.

"It's just a comfort thing. Everyone loves dogs so it's always good to have them around," said one student.

The dogs even have their own pet posse cards with all the information about the pooches on the back.

Students have even started collecting the cards by hanging them in their dorm rooms.

Ashley Walters, an OSU student, found a friend in therapy dog Charlie, and it changed her life on campus. That's why she nominated the Pet Posse for Pay it 4Ward.

"When I was a freshman, I was extremely shy and not very involved on campus. I had a very hard time kind of adjusting. With the dogs, it really helped. Now as a junior, I'm more outgoing and more involved and having a lot of fun here," Walters said.

Ann, clearly surprised by the gesture, has a passion for helping others.

"Oh honey, you make me cry. You make me absolutely want to cry. Thank you. Thank you so much. You are so special, I should be doing this for you," said Ann. "Oh Ashley, this is amazing. So, this is for the pet therapy program. I'm telling you, you brought tears to my eyes. That is so thoughtful. Thank you so much."

OSU's first cowgirl and her stampede of creature comforts - paying it forward to students.

"Especially this time of year. The students are stressed, the faculty staff is stressed. And so we have the dogs, and the minute you stroke 'em, you feel better. And that's what it's all about."

Pay it 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.