Drexel University Recreational Athletics and Student Life has employed a new therapy dog named Chai to replace the previous therapy dog, Jersey, who left in January. Chai, a four-year old female purebred blue Cane Corso, is a large dog weighing about 115 pounds. She will tentatively be available for student to visit beginning May 31 according to the Office of Recreational Athletics and Student Life.
“The size can be intimidating because they are big dogs, but they’re soft and loving teddy bears when you get to know them,” joked owner Janine Erato, who will be escorting Chai around campus.
“We’re very excited to be coming on board and everyone at Drexel has been very welcoming,” she went on.
But Erato and Chai didn’t seek out the position on their own; it was Erato’s son Joseph Roche who attends Drexel as a freshman entertainment and arts management major. When he learned about Jersey’s retirement, he thought his family’s therapy dog might make a nice replacement, and got in touch with Bryan Ford, the Assistant Athletic Director for Recreation, who contacted his mother.
“He didn’t even tell me about it. He met with Mr. Ford, I guess because Jersey had left … and he said to Mr. Ford, ‘I have a therapy dog!’ and kind of volunteered me.” Erato recounted humorously.
Chai will be spending around 10 hours a week at Drexel, and be available for office hours at different times and locations, since one of Erato’s number one priorities is making the dog as accessible to students as possible.
“I’m going to mix it up. There are times that I will be in the rec center (Daskalakis Athletic Center). I’m going to try and do some office hours over there … the rest of the time I’m making up a schedule and I’m going to try and hit the different buildings on different days and at different times,” she explained. “The goal is to mix up the days and times as well as hopefully reach out to some clubs if they would like us there for certain events,” she continued.
Erato will be managing a Facebook page for Chai to communicate the dog’s daily location so that members of the community have the opportunity to visit Chai around campus. She also hopes to engage Chai in special events around campus, including the Puppy Pawloozas hosted by the Campus Activities Board during finals.
“A lot of times students are leaving their dogs [at home] … and it’s a way to get a home feel and a community feel at Drexel,” Ford said, explaining why his office was so interested in replacing Jersey. “We want to make it feel like home at Drexel,” he continued, mentioning the calming effect therapy dogs can have on students.
According to Erato, Chai’s training to become a therapy dog was vigorous. Since purchasing Chai from Black Pearl Kennel breeders when it was two months old, she’s put the dog through a large amount of training. Some of the requirements include loose-leash walking, coming when called, refusing to eat human food when dropped on the floor, getting petted all over, being comfortable with strangers and more. Chai has previously worked as a therapy dog for schools, the YMCA, universities and special events. Chai is also a mom, and has had one litter of seven puppies.
Chai’s earned the titles of Advanced Canine Good Citizen and Urban Canine Good Citizen through vigorous training and testing regimens approved by the American Kennel Club and been awarded the champion title for her excellence in dog shows. She’s already received a THD title for having performed over 50 visits as a therapy dog and is set to reach 100 during her time at Drexel.