There’s a new staff member at the University’s Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP), and he’s ready to help students deal with the trauma that has brought them there.
Auggie, a three-year-old Boston terrier, makes his home with SARP director Maureen Mahoney, who adopted him with the hope that he would become certified as a therapy dog and could work beside her and her staff.
“One of the most important things he does is make our office more approachable,” Mahoney says. “Nobody wants to come to this office, ever.”
SARP provides free, confidential crisis response, support, and counseling for BU students who have experienced a traumatic incident. The center focuses on rape and sexual trauma, but staff members apply their expertise to physical assault and other crimes as well.
Students who come to SARP are always asked first if they’d like Auggie to be at their counseling session. If they say yes, they’ll be introduced to the 30-pound ball of restless, inquisitive, squeaky-toy-loving energy.
“Some students think he’s a good distraction, and they’ll play with him,” Mahoney says. “For some students, he’s a comfort. For others, he does something goofy, and it’s a relief. He helps some people focus on things. Just sitting there and petting him while they talk relieves a lot of stress—if he’s willing to sit and be petted.”
SARP’s clients usually talk about very upsetting events; often it’s the worst thing that ever happened to them. Mahoney had seen the research supporting the benefits of therapy dogs for people coping with past trauma, and thought a therapy dog might help with the office’s mission of providing support and advocacy for clients. And since SARP is in an office complex at 930 Commonwealth Ave., not in a medical facility, dogs are not prohibited.
Two years ago, Mahoney got a tip from a friend who knew she was looking for a dog. Auggie, despite being a full-bred Boston terrier with…