Emily McConville | February 13, 2015
Junior Ellen Chaleff’s dog, a Dachshund/rat terrier mix named Fred, is there when she wakes up in the morning. He’s there, wearing an NYPD coat, when she walks between classes. He’s there when she sits in class, when she eats at the dining hall, when she’s at Ultimate Frisbee practice and when she goes to bed at night.
And if Chaleff has a panic attack, he’s also there, curled up on her lap until it passes.
The first service dog for mental illness on campus, Fred has been at Notre Dame with Chaleff since last Halloween. Chaleff, who began showing symptoms of bipolar disorder in high school, said she found out about him after he was rescued from an abusive home. He already had training as an emotional support dog, making him easier to train further as a service animal. Professionals trained him to help with bipolar disorder, and Chaleff said she did the rest.
“I trained him to be in public, to be in a restaurant, to be in a dining hall, to sit in a classroom,” she said.
Disability services coordinator Scott Howland said students requesting accommodation must provide documentation of their disability, and students requesting service animals must say why they need one, though they do not need proof of the animal’s training. He said the process varies from person to person.
“The key factor to any sort of accommodation request, regardless of what it is, is we would want to look at all the variables, look at the case on an individual basis to make the best decision,” he said. “We would never automatically think that a similar request is the same as the first.”
Chaleff said she worked with Notre Dame’s Disability Services to make sure her professors, Notre Dame Food Services and Office of Housing were aware of and accommodating of Fred.