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SLU Welcomes Newest Billiken: Woody, the Duo Facility Dog

by Jacob Born
Media Inquiries

Jacob Born
Communications Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.

It’s the first day of classes of the spring semester at Saint Louis University, and members of the SLU community will see the newest member of the Billiken family walking around campus: Duo Facility Dog Woody. 

Wood, SLU's newest facility dog, is surrounded by his handlers during his graduation to become an official facility dog.

Woody, SLU's new facility dog, will assist with decreasing stress, improving moods, and promoting overall well-being through interactions with students, faculty and staff on campus. Photo provided by Ethan Dixon.

The first Duo Facility Dog to ever go to college, Woody is a two-year-old English Labrador Retriever who has been training his entire life for his new role.

In keeping with SLU’s holistic approach to mental health and well-being, Woody will assist with decreasing stress, improving moods, and promoting overall well-being through interactions with students, faculty and staff on campus.

“SLU is dedicated to Cura Personalis, caring for the whole person, and this is just another example of that,” said Eric Anderson, assistant vice president of student well-being and one of Woody’s handlers. “In today’s world, young people are experiencing more stress than ever before, and that stress isn’t limited to just finals week. We wanted to provide students with an opportunity to have resources year-round, and Woody provides a safe, new and fun outlet to de-stress and really help improve mental health across SLU’s campus.”

A facility dog is similar to a service dog, but there are some distinct differences between them. A facility dog undergoes similar training as service dogs but is specifically trained to work with multiple handlers in residential homes, clinics or organizations and carry out specific, skilled tasks with multiple clients. Facility dogs also do not have public access rights and are authorized to work within the assigned facility only. 

Staff from the Division of Student Development, the Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness, the University Counseling Center, and other areas will escort Woody around campus. These handlers have also received extensive training, both with and without Woody, to make sure the campus is receiving the best care possible from him. 

“I am fully prepared to be stopped on every walk and to be late to every meeting,” said Tori Harwood, student wellness coordinator and Woody’s lead handler. “Woody is just so happy to be on campus. He’s already met with students and has become accustomed to his new office. And you can tell the spirits are lifted in those spaces. I’m really excited for this semester because I know he’s going to be the most popular figure on campus and will really do some good this year.” 

So when you see Woody around SLU, make sure to say hello, give him belly rubs and tell him he’s a very good boy. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Woody

Where is Woody allowed on campus? 

Woody is allowed in all facilities on campus with the exception of lactation rooms, food preparation areas, serving and dining areas, SLU vans, shuttles, mechanical rooms, kitchen areas, and the data centers (located in Des Peres Hall, Doisy Research Center, and the Caroline Building).

Can I or other SLU students request Woody’s presence at events, meetings, classes, appointments, study sessions, or to hang out in my resident hall?

Requests are limited at this time as Woody is still onboarding to his new role. That being said, the SLU community will not be able to request Woody to hang out while studying or while in their residential hall. There will be many events and opportunities for the campus community to interact and engage with Woody on a regular basis. 

How should I interact with Woody when I meet or see him?

If you would like to pet Woody, just let his handlers know at that time. Woody really loves people, so he will come up to you after permission is given and smell your legs or feet. Woody really enjoys pets on his back and sometimes belly rubs! He just asks that people don’t hover over him or get face-to-face with him during interactions. 

What if I am allergic to dogs? 

Woody is a yellow English Labrador Retriever and is not hypoallergenic. Please let Woody’s handler know if you are allergic to dogs so that they can maintain appropriate space and distance. Individuals are not required to interact with Woody. Each handler has a space in their office for him, and alternative meeting locations can be accommodated for individuals with allergies.

What if I’m afraid of dogs? 

Woody has been specially trained to work with individuals and is required to be on a leash at all times when interacting with people. Please let his handler know if you are uncomfortable around dogs so that they can maintain appropriate distance. Of course, individuals are not required to interact with Woody.

Am I allowed to give Woody treats or food?

No. Woody is on a strict diet and enrichment schedule. Only his handlers are allowed to give him treats while training or his dog food. 

How long will Woody be at SLU?

Woody is expected to work up to around the age of 10 years old, unless any unforeseen circumstances or health ailments arise that wouldn’t allow him to continue his work.