Chapel Dog Helps Connect, Comfort People
by U.S. Air Force Jason Wilkinson 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
November 7, 2021
Maverick possesses a charisma most people would be envious of, and it is easy to imagine him as the center of attention in most social situations.
Maverick is a Siberian Husky who functions as the chapel dog for the 502nd Air Base Wing Chaplain Corps and is owned and handled by Tech. Sgt. Karen Pasay-an, the non-commissioned officer in charge of installation ministries at Joint Base San Antonio. As a chapel dog, he is part mascot, motivator, and therapy dog.
Maverick, a Siberian Husky who functions as the chapel dog for the 502nd Air Base Wing Chaplain Corps, poses with his handler, Tech. Sgt. Karen Pasay-an, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Installation Ministries at the Gateway Chapel, Oct. 12, 2021, Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jason Wilkinson 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs)
“He opens up a lot of doors of communication,” Pasay-an said. “There’s a clear difference when I interact with Maverick, and when I don’t have him.”
Pasay-an says people often tell her that seeing Maverick is one of the best parts of their day. The trainees in particular enjoy seeing him on the track during their physical training.
“I’ve had some of them tell me they passed their PT test because of Maverick,” Pasay-an said.
And while PT motivation is great, Maverick’s real talent is putting people at ease, whether that is during routine visits from the chaplain, or when his presence is requested during a counseling session.
“I think animals are able to tap into people’s emotions, and into certain things they may be going through that we don’t see at the surface level,” said Pasay-an. “Maverick can tell when they are distressed, and I think that aids in the healing.”
Maverick wasn’t always a chapel dog, but Pasay-an quickly saw his potential.
“When he was about a year old, I would take him to work in my old career field, vehicle operations,” she said. “I noticed that he was very good with folks, especially children, so I started training him to interact with more people.”
Despite being around 65 pounds, Maverick is gentle with others and likes meeting new people. Pasay-an put him in therapy training where he received his therapy dog certification.
When she changed career fields and came into the Chaplain Corps, she thought he might be helpful when interacting with and counseling others. She spoke to leadership, and they thought it sounded like a good idea.
“I’ve talked to numerous chaplains about the chapel dog program and they said this is absolutely one of the greatest ways to make connections with members,” Pasay-an said.
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