'Su-paw star’ therapy dog Brengle welcomes new puppy recruit
published on 3 Aug 2023
‘Su-paw star’ therapy dog Brengle has welcomed a new apprentice puppy to continue Middlesbrough Salvation Army’s ministry supporting the wellbeing of university students.
Cocker spaniel Bonnie, now five months old, will be put through her paces to become a therapy dog, joining Golden Retriever Brengle who gained fame in the town earlier this year after being awarded an honorary ‘dog-torate’ from Teesside University in recognition of his contribution to student welfare.
Brengle is a regular visitor to the university campus, which is next door to Middlesbrough Salvation Army, with his owner church leader Captain Naomi Kelly as part of the chaplaincy service.
Captain Naomi said: “Brengle has become such a vital part of ministry, opening up so many doors for The Salvation Army to support people and start conversations. Our lovely Bonnie is the second wave of that part of my ministry.
“I’m a chaplain at the university and usually go in on a Friday for a couple of hours. Brengle helps people to feel relaxed, to open up and talk about stress, mental health, faith, whatever may be bothering them. The students really love him and I’m looking forward to introducing Bonnie to everyone when she has done her training.
“She’s a bonnie wee lass and already a familiar face at our Middlesbrough church where she comes every day. People love her!”
Although there is no specific training to become a therapy dog, they have to pass a test to show they have the right temperament.
Naomi continued: “Cocker Spaniels are naturally lively so she is much bouncier than Brengle, but she also has a calmness about her and is good at letting people touch her, so I think she will be a very good therapy dog.
“Although there is no specific training, there is a special test they can do from nine months old. With Brengle it involved things like taking a biscuit gently, not barking or jumping. His was at a bus stop to see how he reacted to the noise of the bus swooping in and people getting off and on. A tiny child came up and the assessor asked if she would like to feed him a biscuit so that was part of the test!
“Bonnie has been going to puppy classes and I’ve been exposing her to loud noises so she gets used to them. Alexa has been a great tool for that as we are able to play sirens or fireworks, which she is taking her stride.”
And what did Brengle think when Bonnie arrived?
Naomi added: “To begin with he was a bit sniffy, but he’s warmed to her a lot! He’s very happy for her to snuggle into him and she snuggles into him constantly. Brengle is her comfort blanket.”
You can follow Brengle and Bonnie’s adventures on Facebook by searching Brengletherapydog.