In the Marlin Ministries Lounge, students migrate in and out with refreshing smiles on their faces and fur on their clothes. Who are they going to see? Luna.
Luna, a 3-year-old black lab, comes to campus every Monday with her owner, Director of Student Ministries Marie Porter, as a therapy dog for students. She stays in the Ministry Lounge waiting for a student to play with or to give her treats.
Porter began her search for a puppy in fall of 2019.
“I was specifically looking for a therapy dog and I knew I wanted a lab,” Porter said.
She soon was in touch with a dog breeder who had a litter of newborn labs, two yellow, two brown and three black. The breeder told Porter that there was one pup in particular that would make for a perfect therapy dog.
“She was the youngest—she was the runt—but she was the smartest,” Porter said. “She was the one that got out the box first and she seemed to be kind of the leader and do things first.”
Luna was also a black lab and Porter had been initially set on adopting a yellow lab. But, with an open mind, she and her husband decided to go see the puppy in person.
When they arrived at the dog breeder’s, all the puppies were playing outside. The breeder looked at Luna, who wasn’t named then, and pointed to the Porters saying, “Look, there’s your new owners.”
“Luna ran directly to me, sat right in front of me and looked at me with her little eyes,” Porter said. “So she picked us and she decided ‘you are [my] owners,’ so I didn’t even bother with the others, it was Luna.”
Before Porter was hired as director of Student Ministries for VWU, she adopted Luna as a therapy dog for her church, Haygood United Methodist Church.
“We had a lot of students that didn’t have dogs, wanted to have dogs and wanted to have a mascot-type of thing,” Porter said. “Then when I got the phone call from the university, it was just a perfect fit.”
Porter informed the university about Luna’s training and got permission to bring Luna on campus and into Batten.
Since being hired, Porter has brought Luna on campus almost every Monday. Because of this, Mondays have become the most popular days for students to visit the Ministry Lounge, even students that are not ministry students.
“I think that it gives them a chance to focus on something else other than whatever’s going on,” Porter said.
Luna’s impact on campus can be seen on the days that she is not present as well, with students poking their heads into the lounge looking for her.
Regardless of what is going on, students make the time to visit Luna, play with her or just sit beside her. Students like Lauren Ford, a senior and member of Marlin Ministries, who had to leave her two dogs at home.
“She makes me miss my dogs more, honestly,” Ford said. “But I love Luna, she’s so kind.”
Luna has brought in so many students, which has made it easier for Porter to reach out and get to know the campus community.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for Marie to meet the students and for students to kind of get more involved or learn more about Marlin Ministries and about the different things we have,” Ford said.
Luna continues to be a source of comfort for students who are missing their dogs back home or who just need a quick cuddle.
On Monday mornings there is no telling what the upcoming week will bring. But one thing is for sure—Luna will be in the Ministry Lounge waiting to cheer the students up.
By Amaris Nolan