By Brooke Coupal
Students’ faces light up when they walk into University Suites on East Campus and are greeted by a beloved four-legged resident known as Eleanor the Eviscerator.
Eleanor is a 7-year-old black-and-white lab/beagle/Staffordshire terrier mix who, despite her nickname, is sweet and affectionate. She is owned by Rae Mansfield, the associate director of Honors scholarship and curriculum.
“She’s 100% mutt and 100% perfect,” says Mansfield, who moved into University Suites with Eleanor in 2017 as the faculty-in-residence for the Commonwealth Honors Living-Learning Community. “Eleanor is the dog-in-residence.”
Students gravitate toward Eleanor when she is hanging out in the residence hall lobby or holding “pawffice hours” alongside Mansfield in the staff office. Laura Noone, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Canton, Massachusetts, is one of them.
“I have a dog back home, too, so it’s always nice to see other dogs,” she said while Eleanor sat on her lap.
Alicia Stransky, a senior mathematics major from Marblehead, Massachusetts, lived in University Suites during the 2019-2020 school year and regularly dog-sat for Mansfield, a task she says helped get her through her sophomore year.
“I knew, no matter what kind of day I was having, that Eleanor was there having a good time, ready to provide me with lots of loving,” says Stransky. “Seeing her do zoomies around the lobby was enough to change the entire trajectory of my day.”
Even when students couldn’t see Eleanor doing zoomies in person, they got comfort from her via Zoom. During the height of the pandemic, as Mansfield taught classes online, Eleanor would climb onto Mansfield’s chair to virtually greet the students.
“She was the most overly educated dog, because when we were doing presentations and classes on Zoom, she came to every single class because she liked seeing the people on the screen,” says Mansfield.
Students who remained on campus during the shutdown appreciated having Eleanor around.
“I always made sure to have a leash that was more than six feet long because we were socially distancing, so she was my primary way to interact with people,” Mansfield says.
In 2020, Eleanor even helped pass out graduation stoles to Honors College graduates staying in University Suites while Mansfield walked around playing “Pomp and Circumstance” on a Bluetooth speaker.
Eleanor likes to explore the university, with some of her favorite spots being the River Hawk Village courtyard on East Campus and the field by the Allen House on South Campus, as documented on her Instagram page @eleanoreviscerator. She came to be known as Eleanor the Eviscerator after pulling a thread on a stuffed fox, causing all its stuffing to fall out.
The open grass fields and constant affection that Eleanor experiences today differ greatly from her living conditions before she made her way to Mansfield. Eleanor had been abandoned in a parking lot in Georgia back in 2016 while pregnant with 10 puppies. Mansfield discovered Eleanor on Petfinder the following year and thought, “This dog is calling to me.”
Mansfield went on to adopt Eleanor, who then became a registered emotional support animal.
“Since 2002, I’ve been a volunteer at the Boston Marathon finish line, and I was at the finish line in 2013 during the bombings,” Mansfield says. “I have PTSD as a result.”
Eleanor will soon help even more people like Mansfield as she works toward becoming a certified therapy dog.