Kat Murray feels lucky to have been a part of MSOE’s community in multiple ways. Not only as a parent to now alumnus Robert Murray ’20, but also as owner and handler of MSOE’s former therapy dog, Kaya.
Murray was first introduced to Kaya through the Door County Sled Dogs, a local nonprofit. The then 5-year-old husky/malamute mix and the Murray family clicked instantly, and she soon became a part of their family.
“On parting instructions, I promised two wishes from Kaya’s previous mom: to make sure she got ice cream because it was her favorite treat, and make sure she was around children because she loves to visit with kids,” said Murray.
This started Kaya’s journey as a therapy dog. Once certified, Kaya became a regular at the Whitefish Bay and North Shore Libraries where kids could come read a book to her.
In addition, Kaya also provided support to MSOE students from 2015–2021 by bringing them comfort and affection as MSOE’s first K9 therapist.
Kaya would visit two evenings the week before exams. She was also invited for special events like the first day of school or when Counseling and Health Services had a special comfort week.
“Every time we arrived, Kaya remembered her room on the third floor of the Campus Center. She really enjoyed walking around and visiting groups of students from table to table.”
Murray recalls one specific occasion when there were not a lot of visitors and a student sat with Kaya for about 45 minutes. Although they didn’t do a lot of talking, at one point, Kaya reached over and put her paw in the student’s hand and they sat like that for 15 minutes. Murray could tell that it was exactly what the student needed at the time.
Although the Murray family doesn’t visit MSOE as often, as Kaya is retired and Robert graduated, they are thankful for the time they did spend on campus and wanted to commemorate those experiences.
“I was looking for birthday gift ideas for Robert while also struggling with Kaya getting older. As soon as I read the email [about MSOE’s Pave the Way Program], I thought what a wonderful idea to honor both my son and Kaya, the first K9 therapist.”
Today, the pavers honoring both Robert and Kaya are displayed in MSOE’s University Terrace to celebrate their special time at MSOE.
“Kaya took her job very seriously and loved going ‘to work.’ If she wasn’t working, but around campus, she loved being recognized. MSOE was a big part of her life, and she is my life. We are thankful to MSOE and the students for welcoming us and we feel privileged to have served the MSOE community.”