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UNC Police welcomes new therapy dog, asks for community input on name

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Officer Destiny Wylie with the puppy. Photo courtesy of UNC Police Officer Destiny Wylie.

To UNC Police Sgt. James David, coming home to his two dogs at the end of the day is an essential stress reliever.

“Why not bring that same feeling to our campus community, to our students?” he said.

UNC Police will welcome a new goldendoodle at the end of February as a police therapy dog for students, staff and faculty. David said with its newest member, the department aims to support mental health across campus, following the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and two gun-related incidents that occurred on campus in the fall.

The dog has not been named yet. UNC community members can vote on its name on the UNC Police website until Feb. 28. The final name choice will be announced on March 1. The new puppy, born on Jan. 4, is a "Standard F1B Imperial Red and Caramel Cream" goldendoodle, according to the breeder's website.  

Voters can choose from four name options, all significant women in UNC's history: Brooke, after Brooke Baldwin, journalist and television news correspondent; Gwen, after Gwendolyn Harrison, the first African American woman to enroll at UNC; Mia, after Mia Hamm, professional soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist; and Sallie, after Sallie Walker Stockard, the first woman to receive a degree from UNC.

"We really want to just highlight the impact that so many of our female trailblazers have had within the UNC community," David said

UNC Police previously had a therapy dog for about two years, from 2018 to 2020, according to a statement from UNC Media Relations. The program ended when the dog’s handler and the animal left the department.

Destiny Wylie, a UNC Police officer, who works in the community services division of the department will take care of the new addition and will bring the dog on campus to attend events and interact with students. Wylie said the new pet therapy program intends to provide a connection between the police and other members of the UNC community. 

"We did this to build our partnerships and communications with students, faculty and staff,” Wylie said. “This is for everybody."

David said he hopes that this program will promote conversation around mental health and alleviate some of the stress of being a UNC student. 

Current on-campus pet program Hugs And Pups Posse - Encouraging and Empowering works to improve college students’ mental health by bringing dogs onto campus four times a week. 

“It really is a home away from home and we've tried to make it a softer, safer place for students to be as well,” the program’s co-founder Cathy Emrick said. “I'm glad that the police are trying to move in that direction too.”

Emrick said that interacting with police officers can be stressful, and she is glad there will be a dog accessible to students in those situations.

“It feels gratifying and validating to watch some of the new mental health efforts that have been growing around campus,” Emrick said.

UNC Police is happy to bring back the program and hopes to continue its growth if well received by the community, David said. Plans for additional therapy animals have yet to be made. 

@sofiaszostczuk

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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