A Salvation Army therapy dog has been awarded an honorary “dog-torate” in recognition of his services to students’ well-being.
Golden retriever Brengle is a regular visitor to Teesside University—in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire in northeast England—with his owner, Captain Naomi Kelly, the Middlesbrough Salvation Army pastor, as part of the chaplaincy service.
Brengle is a famous face on the campus, which is located next to the Army church, offering support to students who may be struggling with stress or mental-health issues.
In what is thought to be the first “honorary dog-torate” in the country, Brengle was awarded the accolade by Teesside University’s Sarah Bishop, assistant director (culture, community and international) of student and library services at Teesside University, to mark University Mental Health Day on March 9.
"People who don’t want to talk to people will talk to dogs, so Brengle helps open up conversations; he is a stepping stone." Naomi Kelly
“How Is Your Day?”
Captain Naomi, who leads The Salvation Army in Middlesbrough with her husband, Captain Chris Kelly, says, “I couldn’t quite believe it when I got the message to say that Brengle was being honoured in this way! It’s amazing because he has impacted people’s lives in such a positive way, so it’s nice that the university wants to honour that and that it’s recognized as a valuable ministry.
“I’m a chaplain at the university,” she goes on to say, “and I usually go in on a Friday for a couple of hours. People who don’t want to talk to people will talk to dogs, so Brengle helps open up conversations; he is a stepping stone. A lot of students say they are stressed but feel better being with him, which gives me the chance to ask what it is that is making them feel stressed.
“It could be the stress of everyday life, which most of us experience, but we don’t think to talk to people about it. Just asking somebody, ‘How is your day?’ can help. Sometimes I can tell people really are not OK and then I signpost them to other services. We do it because we are part of a religious service and the students are open to that.”
“Brengle also gets requests,” Captain Naomi continues. “We’ve been asked to support students as they come out of their exams, and offered support to a cohort when one of their friends died.”
“Often students are away from home for the first time, sometimes in a foreign country, and could be dealing with things like exam pressures, money issues or relationship breakdown,” Sarah says. “It is vital, therefore, that students know that the university is there to help them and can offer support.
“Brengle does a fantastic job, encouraging people to engage with our support services and providing them with love and reassurance.
“When you see him walking around campus, you see people point and smile, they enjoy him being here. We’re delighted to create this special honour for him; he’s a worthy recipient.”
Brengle’s name is a nod to Samuel Logan Brengle, who was a commissioner in The Salvation Army during co-founder General William Booth’s time and did a lot of teaching on holiness.
“The Salvation Army is a charity,” Captain Naomi adds, “but first and foremost, we are a church, so Brengle’s name is a nice connection to that and can help open up the conversation about The Salvation Army. “It’s really important that the therapy dog work is linked to kingdom work.”
You can follow Brengle on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1000827015