Animal Assisted Intervention program at NMU

The Wildpups are NMU’s embedded animal-assisted intervention (AAI) program. AAI’s involves a human (handler)-animal team that has specialized training in their field. AAIs are intended to aid in the improvement of others’ physical, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning (Winkle, 2018).

AAI is a broad umbrella consisting of three sub-types of interventions that animals can provide: animal-assisted activity (AAA), animal-assisted education (AAE), and animal-assisted therapy (AAT). AAAs involve volunteers who provide recreational opportunities to enhance the quality of life of others (Pet Partners, 2017). These activities are more informal and include general therapy visits. AAE is when a handler-animal team is qualified to provide educational services on AAI (Winkle, 2018; Pet Partners, 2017). AAT is offered in a formal therapeutic capacity when a handler-animal team is qualified to provide a professional service such as physical, cognitive, or psychosocial therapies. These programs are efficient, flexible, and remove the stigma of “therapy” (Fine, 2019).

The goal of The Wildpups program is to provide recreation, education, motivation, and support to enrich campus.


  • Fine, A. (2019). Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy: Foundations and Guidelines for Animal Assisted- Interventions. Elsevier Academic Press.
  • Pet Partners. (2017). Terminology
  • Winkle, M. & Linder, D. (2018). Animal-Assisted Interventions: Taxonomy and Best Practices.
  • Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 6, 24-36.

Wildpups Events

Dates and Times for Winter 2024:

NMU Library Events:

Monday, January 29, from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Thursday, February 15, from 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Monday, February 26, from  11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Thursday, March 14, from 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Monday, March 25, from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Thursday, April 11, from 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Monday, April 29, from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

NMU Faculty Member Wildpup

Wildpup Fondzie


Handler's Name:

Michelle Andriacchi, Nursing Professor & Dominic Andriacchi, Political Science Professor

  • Breed: Siberian Husky
  • Birthday: November 30, 2016
  • Favorite things: Napping, treats, cheese, belly rubs, and cuddling
  • Fun Fact: Fonzie was rescued and rehabilitated in Oklahoma by the Husky Halfway House
Boris Wildpup


Handler's Name:

Casey Hopper, Nursing Professor

  • Breed: English Mastiff
  • Birthday: February 14, 2019
  • Favorite things: Napping, treats, swimming, and chasing the hose
  • Fun Facts: He weighs 200 pounds and drools a lot
Wildpup Ramsey


Handler's Name:

Anne Stein, Nursing Professor

  • Breed: Australian Shepherd
  • Birthday: September 27, 2017
  • Favorite things: hiking, kayaking, & treats
  • Fun Fact: Ramsey’s owner traveled to Minnesota in a snowstorm during Super Bowl weekend to pick him up
Wildpup Molly


Handler's Name:

Rachel Nye, Nursing Professor

  • Breed: Goldendoodle
  • Birthday: December 28, 2018
  • Favorite things: playing fetch with her spikey ball, peanut butter, spending time with her humans, naps with her head on a pillow, and going for car rides and letting the wind blow through her fur
Wildpup Sadie


Handler's Name:

Katie Taylor, Nursing Professor

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: October 2, 2017
  • Favorite things: naps, snuggles, watermelon, swimming, and side-by-side rides 
  • Fun Fact: She was rehomed to Katie
Wildpup Madison


Handler's Name:

Tanya Savage, Admissions

  • Breed: Labrador Retriever
  • Birthday: May 9, 2012
  • Favorite things: opening Christmas presents, getting cards in the mail, eating snacks
  • Fun Fact: She has been doing therapy work for 8 years and she loves to smile.
Wildpup Luna 1


Handler's Name:

Katie Menard, Nursing Professor

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: May 3, 2018
  • Favorite things: People, toys, hiking in the woods, and swimming
Wildpup Ben


Handler's Name:

Lori Nelson, Speech, Language, Hearing Science Professor

  • Breed: Miniature Poodle
  • Birthday: July 29, 2018
  • Favorite things: Chasing squirrels, watching the neighbors, his sister who is a cat, and playing hide-and-seek with his mom
Wildpup Willow


Handler's Name:

Tara Schaffer, Student Success Specialist

  • Breed: Mini Goldendoodle
  • Birthday: February 26, 2021
  • Favorite things: visiting with friends, hikes, playing with sticks and tennis balls, and swimming in Lake Superior

Community Member Wildpups from Superior Land Pet Partners:

Wildpup Dixie


Handler's Name:

Naomi Noordyk-Piirala

  • Breed: Collie
  • Birthday: January 28, 2016
  • Favorite things: walks in the woods, naps, and visit all her new human friends
Wildpup Sal


Handler's Name:

Anna Dauffenbach

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: September 1, 2019
  • Favorite things: playing with tennis balls, belly rubs, peanut butter, cheese, and snow
Wildpup Hugo


Handler's Name:

Nik Hurley

  • Breed: Leonberger
  • Birthday: August 2, 2019
  • Favorite things: playing with dog friends, snow, water, visiting people, cuddles, nibbling, snow biking, and treats
Wildpup Sissy


Handler's Name:

Gwen Erickson

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: June 29, 2012
  • Favorite things: going for rides to camp and hiking on cross country ski trails in the winter
Wildpup Rosie


Handler's Name:

Jo Foley

  • Breed: Mini Australian Shepherd
  • Birthday: November, 3, 2014
  • Favorite things: supervising the neighborhood and being near and on humans
Wildpup Clara


Handler's Name:

Steve Reese

  • Breed: Yorkie mix with long hair Chihuahua
  • Birthday: April 10, 2013
  • Favorite things: people and motorcycles
Wildpup Mo


Handler's Name:

Jo Garrish

  • Breed: English Cocker
  • Birthday: December 6, 2013
  • Favorite things: people, toys, food, and being a championship show dog
Wildpup Franklin


Handler's Name:

Mary Lee Kirkum

  • Breed: English Springer Spaniel
  • Birthday: June 14, 2013
  • Favorite things: Carrots and stuffed toys
Wildpup Madison


Handler's Name:

Keena Jones

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: November 24, 2019
  • Favorite things: walks, going to school, and playing with my ball
Wildpup Stanley


Handler's Name:

Wendy Beach

  • Breed: German Wirehaired Pointer/Border Collie Mix
  • Favorite things: herding sheep, traveling, carrying firewood, and snuggling
Wildpup Daisy


Handler's Name:

Kelly December

  • Breed: Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Birthday: August 6, 2015
  • Favorite things: Sleeping, going for rides, and Culver’s ice cream
Wildpup Otto


Handler's Name:

Naomi Noordyk-Piirala

  • Breed: Border collie
  • Birthday: December 24, 2020 
  • Favorite things: running, cuddles, and blueberries
Wildpup Dwight


Handler's Name:

Katie Miedona

  • Breed: Golden-border-doodle
  • Birthday: July 1, 2019 
  • Favorite things: running, playing with friends, belly rubs

Future Wildpups

Wildpup Seneca


Handler's Name:

Michelle Andriacchi, NMU Nursing Professor & Dominic Andriacchi, NMU Political Science Professor

  • Breed: German Shepherd
  • Birthday: October 7, 2019
  • Favorite things: Spikey balls, fetch, treats, following mom and dad, hiking, playing in the water, and playing “find it”
Wildpup Bravo

Bravo Foxtrot

Handler's Name:

Kendall Fladung, NMU Nursing Technology Center Supervisor

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: May 14, 2021
  • Favorite things: Run, swim, paddle board, and eat
Wildpup Rusty


Handler's Name:

Carol Johnson, NMU Dean of the College of Business

  • Breed: Shih Tzu
  • Birthday: March 4, 2015
  • Favorite things: Walks, playing with toys, cuddling, and swimming in Lake Superior
Wildpup Myla


Handler's Name:

Sara Potter, NMU Communication and Media Studies Professor

  • Breed: Labrador and English Springer
  • Birthday: December 18, 2018
  • Favorite things: hikes and bike rides with her family, playing fetch, swimming, and snuggling in her chair
Wildpup Luna 2


Handler's Name:

Katie Taylor, NMU Nursing Professor

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Birthday: July 11, 2016
  • Favorite things: Her blankie, chasing tennis balls, and watching people walk by her house