A University of Connecticut Police Department (UCPD) dog’s engagement on campus has bounced back after the pandemic, according to her handler.
The dog, named Officer Tildy, first came to UCPD’s community outreach unit as a facility dog in 2018. Although she has appeared at campus events and workshops since her arrival at UConn, her participation in them dwindled during the isolating years of the pandemic.
Now, Officer Tildy is back in full swing, her handler, Sgt. Justin Cheney of UCPD said. Cheney explained that he and Officer Tildy come to the UConn campus most days of the week, and that he often brings Tildy back for campus events in the evenings.
“This semester especially, we’ve been doing a lot of extra stuff here and there,” Cheney said.
Cheney said these extra events include club meetings, team building workshops and self-defense classes. He particularly likes leading team-building workshops because he likes seeing how the activities “create a better team atmosphere” for students, staff and faculty.
One group Cheney said he enjoys working with is the UConn Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, which is responsible for caring for Jonathan. He said he appreciates the opportunity to “get to know students on a more personal level.”
Other than the university’s return to a more normal social scene after emerging from the depths of the pandemic, Cheney attributes Officer Tildy’s increased engagement on campus to the fact that more people know about her and request her presence at various events.
“She’s solidified herself in this community,” Cheney said. “It’s great to see how much she’s been accepted.”
While Cheney is unsure if Tildy has attended more events this semester than at any time before, he said it certainly feels like it. Either way, he is positive that she is more involved now than she was in recent years.
“It’s definitely an increase from last semester,” Cheney said.
Cheney expressed his appreciation for Tildy, explaining that she makes him more “approachable,” especially to students in difficult situations.
“It’s a win-win because it gets us in front of folks,” Cheney said, referring to the dog’s natural tendency to draw people in, which creates an opportunity for UCPD to educate and engage with students.
Cheney explained that Officer Tildy’s enthusiastic participation on campus each day tires her out, and that she looks forward to lounging on the couch after a busy day of work.
“She’s kind of wiped from the day,” Cheney said. “Kind of like a regular person would be.”