Sunday, May 19, 2024

UP deploys therapy dogs

University Police Officer Christina Bedard holds Caamp, one of UP’s three therapy dogs.



By Brionne Thompson

At SUNY Plattsburgh’s University Police station, the police officers are incorporating therapy dogs in their work. 

UP officers Nate Yeager, Lauren Dube and Christina Bedard went to an animal shelter in Chadum, New York, to each find a dog they were comfortable with having on their team. 

“We are trying to bridge the gap between us and the community to be more approachable,” Yeager said. 

The first dog, named Izzie, was first seen on campus being trained in a fire drill. Izzie is a 5-month-old black labrador puppy. Yeager felt drawn to Izzie and adopted her March 18. He described her as a calm and quiet dog.

“It hasn’t been hard to train her. I’m just learning how to communicate with her,” Yeager said. 

Therapy dogs can bring a sense of community and appreciation within the police force. 

“The mood has definitely been lifted in here, and we are more excited to see the dogs every day at work,” Yeager said. 

Izzie and her friends, Caamp and Reva, also English labradors, have been in training for four weeks. 

“Dogs just make everything better,” UP Chief Patrick Rascoe said. “They knock down the stress level, increase happiness. The mood changes when (Caamp) walks in. She just comes in and keeps it chill.”


Brionne Thompson
Izzie sits in front of a University Police truck.


Therapy dogs have been shown in studies such as City of Hope Cancer Center or the U.S. Department of Justice to potentially have some health benefits that make the police reporting and person being questioned feel calm, making the process go smoothly. 

Janiyah James, a junior majoring in social work, saw the therapy dogs after a shift at the Hartman Theater. 

“They’re just so cute and sweet,” James said. “They aren’t loud or anything and so relaxing to be around.”

Even though therapy dogs are meant to de-escalate situations and provide calmness, they have a limit to where they are allowed. 

“I wouldn’t take her to a party to break up a fight, at all. That would put her in danger, and she needs to also be kept safe,” Yeager said. 

In some situations, such as a fire drill, training is necessary. Going into the fire drills the first couple of times with therapy dogs might be a swift change in the dogs’ environment with the loud sounds, but eventually they will get used to it and be able to be more alert than distracted. 

Mel Deller, a certified dog trainer of about 15 years, has come in to teach not only the dogs, but their owners too. 

“It can be difficult training, whether it’s the dog or the human,” Deller said. 

Deller trains the dogs to follow commands and works with the owner to make sure the dogs aren’t listening only to her and that there is a line of communication through the dog and its owner. 

“I get to give police officers homework every week, so that’s fun,” Deller said.

The therapy dogs have already attended a few campus events, such as a physical safety presentation April 9. Once they are fully trained, there will be more events on campus including them. 

For now, they are always with their owners, the police officers on campus. Students are welcome to stop by and say hello to the therapy dogs.


Reva is one of the three therapy dogs joining University Police’s force.
Reva is one of the three therapy dogs joining University Police’s force.


Michael Purtell contributed to this report by interviewing University Police Chief Patrick Rascoe.

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