Janine Erato is the owner of Drexel’s therapy dogs: Chai and Espresso. She brings Chai and Espresso to campus events throughout the term.
This interview has been edited for clarity and style.
The Triangle: Tell me about Chai and Espresso. How are they different from each other?
Janine Erato: Chai is 6 years old — he’s more mellow and calm. I named him after my favorite drink, which is chai. Espresso is 4 years old and he’s a shot of pure energy. He’s so athletic — he always tries to win any competition he’s in. My husband named him after his favorite drink. Their names are really fitting! They both spend 8-10 hours every week on all three campuses.
TT: How does a dog become certified to become a therapy dog?
JE: Training is usually done either at a training center or at home — if you know what you’re doing. There’s a test with a lot of different components and the certification is pass/fail.
TT: Where can students find Chai and Espresso?
JE: Chai and Espresso can be found during events on each of Drexel’s campuses. One can also follow their social media.
TT: Besides Drexel, where else do these dogs make appearances?
JE: Well before coming to Drexel, Chai and Espresso used to make appearances at other places but right now they’re at Drexel full-time.
TT: What is the overall purpose of bringing these dogs to Drexel and other college campuses?
JE: There are a couple of reasons: first, Drexel’s aim is to create a home away from home and that includes time with the family pet. While Chai and Espresso won’t be able to replace the memories of a real family pet, they are a pretty good substitute. They’re very friendly and calm dogs. Second, they play a major role in campus involvement: they get people to come to events! And the last reason — the most important one — being they help alleviate a lot of stress.
TT: How can students benefit from spending time with these dogs?
JE: Being around Chai and Espresso elevates happiness — students can snuggle with them, talk to them and just have a little piece of home with them.
TT: Why is this especially important during finals weeks and other busy parts of the term?
JE: I mean, Drexel is always busy. Students are constantly taking exams and working on assignments, which is why Chai and Espresso are available all term. Finals week is definitely the most stressful though and these dogs do a great job at making students feel better.
TT: Are you looking to expand the program further?
JE: Yes! We’ve actually expanded our program recently — we recently hired an unpaid intern. We also are hosting our first official event that was funded by donations on March 21 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Recreation Center lobby. It’s a stress buster event in memory of Irish journalist Ryan Cornelius.
TT: What’s one thing you think students might not know about the dogs?
JE: Chai and Espresso are not service dogs; they’re therapy dogs, which means that they’re not around to help me or anything so I can’t bring them into restaurants or other public places. Their main role is to provide comfort for others.
TT: What have you learned from working with these dogs and introducing them to students?
JE: Well the students have just been so welcoming. Even though they’re such big dogs, most students aren’t afraid of them because of how calm and friendly Chai and Espresso are. When the dogs are exposing their bellies completely to you guys, that’s the most submissive position a dog can be in. They’re being vulnerable — that means they’re comfortable with the students and I’m so proud of that. The students have also been so nice and supportive of our newest dog in training, Java.
TT: What’s the best part about working with Chai and Espresso and bringing them to campus?
JE: All the free kisses!