Comfort dog Rachel allows students, community to destress

Rachel+the+Therapy+Dog+visits+members+of+Heritage+Woods%2C+an+assisted+living+facilty+in+Flora%2C+Ill.+on+Thursday%2C+April+28%2C+2022.

Submitted by Terry Baker

Rachel the Therapy Dog visits members of Heritage Woods, an assisted living facilty in Flora, Ill. on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Cam'ron Hardy, Campus Events Junior Editor

Editor’s Note: Edits have been made to this story to accurately reflect the name of the church where Rachel works. 

With the start of the new semester, students may be overwhelmed with the anticipation of new classes, teachers or even a new environment for freshmen and transfer students.

Rachel is a golden retriever comfort dog who works for Immanuel Lutheran Church in Charleston. She was placed there by the Lutheran Church Charities in 2018.

She is meant to console and comfort people during times of need. She goes to different establishments such as nursing homes, schools and hospitals for this purpose. She has had over 1,500 hours of disciplinary training.

Terry Baker the top dog, which is the person in charge of Rachel, gives background information of Rachel and her specific purpose.

“She was trained to console people,” Baker said. “She’s not a therapy dog or any other type of dog, she’s there for comfort for people in need.”

Baker tells the story of Rachel attending an assisted living home, and there is a resident in particular that does not speak or show emotion. 

Rachel went up to this gentleman and he put his hand on her and he smiled. The nurse at the establishment said that he never did that before.

After he told the story, Baker said, “that’s what it is for, comfort.”

Rachel goes and comforts younger children as well. Rachel goes to different schools and visits kids. 

Baker says that the children love when she comes around and are excited when they see her and are eager to pet her.

Rachel came to Eastern to allow the students to destress with her.

“We go in [the study hall] once or twice a year, and it’s for destress for everybody,” Baker said. “I came in there for the first time two years ago, and the women’s basketball team showed up. They all showed up, sat down and just had a ball with Rachel.”

The LCC has added multiple locations for Rachel to visit. 

Some of the places they already visit are in Newton, Effingham, Shelbyville, Paris, Oakland, Charleston and Mattoon. 

When they go to these places, they are typically there for about an hour to an hour and a half.

The LLC is going out to different states to try and get recognized in different stories. Rachel will be traveling to Memphis to a school to try and get recognized in other places and to visit the children.

Some people even send Rachel gifts for her services. She has received birthday and Christmas presents from the people she has helped.

Last year, Rachel was invited by Eastern’s Living and Learning Communities to a “Dogs, Donuts & Talking Dough” event in Pemberton Hall. 

The event was held in order to raise financial awareness for the residents who wanted to come.

Rachel was also a part of Eastern’s Student Mental Health & Wellness Day and Self-care open house. These events took place over the course of two days and Rachel saw over 200 people during these days.

The LCC also has a Kare 9 Military Ministry. This branch was established in August 2014 and has teams of veterans and dogs that serve active military and their families. 

They are trained to obey specific commands, welcome affection and connect with individuals. The dogs provide assistance for the veterans who have been through a lot in the military.

Every Kare 9 handler is a veteran, and they participate in events such as yellow-ribbon reintegration events, military stand-downs and visiting veterans in their homes and care facilities.

Rachel is a way for students to destress and allows them to be comfortable during tough times, and she visits other areas besides campus for this purpose as well.

Rachel is at the Immanuel Lutheran Church on Saturday at 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. on Sundays every weekend to help people destress.

 

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]