There’s a new face around campus, and it belongs to someone that’s a bit closer to the ground and has more fur than the average Goshen College student. It’s Glenn, your campus service dog. Glenn, a Belgian Malinois, is a companion to Em Brewer, a second-year at Goshen College. They are together nearly all the time: in class, walking to the dining hall, and starting and finishing the day together in Kulp.
I met up with Brewer and Glenn in the Kulp basement, where Glenn quickly stretched out beside the table, lazy but attentive.
“When he first started working with me and living in my house,” said Brewer, “he’d always been in other training programs and had never lived in a house before. I started to walk into a room to find Glenn on top of the kitchen counter. He’d get into these weird places… It was like owning a cat. A weird doggish cat.”
Glenn and Brewer were united over the past summer, before which Brewer conducted a half-year period of research to decide what the best company was for them and what kind of dog would suit their needs.
“It was May 13th when I got him- I don’t know why I remember the exact date,” said Brewer, “I actually had to go out to Utah to get him, so I flew out to Utah by myself, went and got a dog, and had to fly back with Glenn, never having taken a dog through an airport security line or anything like that.”
While Glenn is still young at a year and a half, he is quickly adapting to campus life, thanks to his extensive training.
“There is no certification process,” Brewer explained, “but the reason he’s allowed to be out in public and on campus living with me is that he’s had a lot of public access training, meaning that he goes out in public and has to behave a certain way. A lot of [his training] was just basic obedience that was molded into different tasks, because he does a lot of things that are specific to me, based on what I need.”
While Glenn has been an enormous help to Brewer, it is not always easy having a service dog and living on a college campus. Since many people have not been around a service dog before, there is not a common understanding of proper etiquette around this kind of medical aid. Glenn is here to work, and when he’s wearing his vest, he’s on the job. That means, even though he is unbelievably cute, he shouldn’t be distracted by people coming up to him and trying to pet him.
There are other small things students can do to share the campus well with Glenn.
“Some people have been scared of him,” said Brewer, “And it’s kind of hard for me because if they get scared then he gets unsure of what’s going on, because he thinks there’s a reason to be afraid. Or a lot of people like to really stare, which is just more annoying, or it makes me self-conscious, because then I think that maybe I’m doing something wrong.”
Being a service dog is full-time work, but that doesn’t mean that Glenn isn’t able to occasionally be a normal dog.
“I take him on a lot of walks that are not just to and from classes,” said Brewer, “I’ve taken him down to College Cabin before and let him go off-leash and thrown his toy around.”
She interrupts herself, to Brewer: “Stop licking yourself!
“If I’m in my room and he’s not laying on top of me he’s laying at the foot of my bed. He just really likes to be close, pretty much at all times- he’s just a really affectionate dog. He likes to be with me a lot, and he gets very upset if I leave him alone.”
Some parts of college life have become a bit more routine by now.
“The first thing he does [in the morning] is bug me to get up, quite honestly, because he knows what my alarm is by now,” Brewer said.
Glenn is a companion to Brewer, but he’s also a necessity. Brewer should not have to explain their disability to everyone, any more than would be expected from a person in a wheelchair.
“People don’t understand that, because they don’t view dogs the same way, but it’s important,” said Brewer, “Understand that he’s here, and there’s a reason he’s here, and it’s not just that I wanted to have a dog. I don’t need to justify my disability just because it’s not something you can necessarily see.”
The important thing for Brewer is that life is better with Glenn.