The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department is adding a new four-legged officer to its ranks.
Hershey, a black and white Doodle breed, is preparing to graduate from Domesti-Pups and will take on the duties of a therapy dog with the college police force.
Domesti-Pups is a Lincoln-based organization specializing in dog training. The organization also prepares service and therapy dogs, which must go through a rigorous training and testing process before being certified and adopted. The organization works with the Nebraska Department of Corrections. The dogs receive some of their training from inmates, but also spend time in the community with handlers and trainers before being ready to be adopted by the agency.
Sara Haake, shipping manager, said she started adding a therapy dog when she learned of their benefits and that other agencies had successfully integrated them.
“We want to better serve our community and help break down some of the barriers between our office and the campus community we serve,” said Haake. “Our bombshell K-9s are popular on campus, but they’re working dogs. Most people are just attracted to them, and Hershey will have a civilian supervisor and support us around the office and on campus.”
Hershey is being added to the department through a fundraiser seeking $5,600 towards adoption fees as well as items needed to care for him, from a bed to bowls and toys.
“The handler will take responsibility for keeping Hershey in his home, but we don’t expect him to incur these additional costs,” Haake said.
Through her research on therapy dogs, Haake learned that other police departments in the Big 10, as well as some Nebraska departments, were adding therapy dogs. In addition to increasing the resilience of UNL PD and with Hershey on campus to meet and greet the community, Haake knows there will be a direct benefit to the victims as well.
“We plan to make Hershey highly visible on campus,” Haake said. “But unfortunately in our office we work with victims for interviews and someone who has been the victim of an assault or stalking, those are more difficult conversations. We would have Hershey available during these interviews if the person is comfortable.”
Hershey will have the following on-campus responsibilities:
- Daily interactions with staff, faculty, students and visitors;
- Offer support to everyone UNL PD members;
- Provide comfort and support to victims of crime during questioning;
- Provide opportunities to bridge communication barriers;
- Provide opportunities to initiate conversations with parties who would otherwise have avoided uniformed staff;
- To allow UNLPD members to connect with the larger community in a positive and informal way.
Hershey will likely have a new name when he is officially adopted, as the highest donor can help choose a new name. To learn more about Hershey or to donate, click here.