For Rachel Moore ’16, her junior year at Furman has meant getting up early for walks and taking regular trips to the tennis courts for exercise.
With long days of classes and activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Moore is carrying an even heavier backpack. She always makes room for the essentials, including a white plastic bowl for water, dry food in a storage bag, and bright blue plastic bags for, never mind. Then there is the favorite treat, a large chewy Nylabone.
When you have a hungry friend at your side for the day, you have to think ahead.
Moore’s new friend and constant companion on campus, Jesse, is a 76-pound yellow Lab. As part of her internship with the Exploration of Vocation and Ministry (EVM) program through the Chaplain’s Office, Moore is training Jesse in the hopes that he will become a service dog through Dogs for Autism (DFA) in Greenville.
Forty-three Furman students, from freshmen to seniors, are participating in EVM this year, either in a ministerial setting or in Moore’s case, serving a community organization. Furman University has provided internships for students through DFA since 2007.
“It’s a great opportunity for Rachel to work with a non-profit agency and develop new skills for her career path,” said Dr. Vaughn CroweTipton, associate vice president for spiritual life and university chaplain. “With a growing demand for service dogs in the community, it also meets a very significant need.”
Moore and Jesse first met about two weeks before classes started in August and went through a series of training classes together. Since then, Moore has continued Jesse’s training on her own, helping him to learn basic commands including sit, down, come, and heel.
Part of the training includes teaching other people on campus about how to treat a service dog. While Jesse is on duty, wearing his service dog vest, people shouldn’t pet him or interact with him since it distracts and excites him, Moore said.
One of the biggest challenges is teaching one-year-old Jesse how to stay focused, said Moore, especially on a campus with so many squirrels.
Jesse goes “off duty” later in the evening. After taking his service vest off, Jesse is able to chase balls in the tennis court or his favorite, curl up with Moore or one of her roommates and watch a movie.
“He thinks he’s a lap dog,” said Moore, an education major who is planning a career as a child life specialist after graduate school.
While it has been a big responsibility, Moore’s favorite part about the internship has been educating folks on campus about service dogs. “College students need puppy therapy,” she said. “I love seeing how excited they get when they see him.”
Learn more about the Exploration of Vocation and Ministry (EVM) program