On Feb. 2, many Corban students were irresistibly attracted to Corban’s newest campus safety officer.
He isn’t the latest model or Hollywood star, but instead an Alaskan malamute/German shepherd puppy named Shadow. Though many may not know the campus safety team by name, his furry presence hasn’t gone unnoticed as evidenced by the crowds that often gather around the playful canine for a quick pat or tummy rub.
While students may be attracted to Shadow’s cuteness, he will eventually be trained for a very important mission at the university, said Mike Roth, Corban’s director of Campus Safety.
“While there are a number of things he could be trained for, I’m leaning toward training him as a therapy dog,” Roth said. “People who work with therapy dogs have told me Shadow’s demeanor would make him a good match for that type of work.”
Therapy dogs are often used to help people talk about traumatic or emotional situations such as the loss of a parent or friend, a newly diagnosed illness or other stresses. They are also helpful in crisis situations where someone may be threatening to hurt themselves or others.
“A dog won’t judge and can provide unconditional love,” Roth said. “It relaxes people when they can pet him or talk to him when they may not do that with a person,” Roth said. “Therapy dogs are trained to provide a sense of peace.” A research study published in the February 2013 issue of the “American Journal of Cardiology” showed pets have a direct link to the heart’s ability to adapt to stressful situations.
Roth laughed and noted that although students may be stressed during exams, Shadow would likely not be available for students to take into their classroom during those times.
The extra benefit for Roth and his Campus Safety team has been the additional contact they have made with students. While taking a “bathroom break,” near the clock tower, nearly a half dozen students came to pet Shadow, who wagged his entire fluffy backside with eager anticipation as they approached. During this time, Roth was able to answer questions about Shadow and Campus Safety’s mission.
“We’ve had a lot more interaction with students,” Roth said. “With all of the gear we carry, we can look intimidating to a lot of students. Shadow has bridged that gap, which has given us the ability to talk to students more than we have in the past. He’s helping us foster new relationships on campus.”
Corban is currently the only college in the Pacific Northwest to have a dog working with campus safety officials. The process started more than one year ago when Roth learned how therapy dogs were being used in law enforcement and human services.
Shadow’s trial at Corban will last approximately one year. During that time, he will live and work with Roth. He can’t begin formal therapy dog training until he has lived on campus for at least six months.
After one year, Roth said university officials will re-evaluate the program and consider keeping Shadow on campus full time. By that time, Roth said the dog could be more than 120 pounds, but doesn’t anticipate Shadow’s demeanor to change.
“He’ll just be a bigger teddy bear than he is now,” he said.
Become Shadow’s Facebook friend by clicking here.