By Kate Ariano
As it happens, the Jonathans are not the only top dogs on campus. Officer Tildy, the UConn police department community outreach dog, has joined the ranks as one of the most esteemed pups on campus.
At three years old, Tildy is a spunky and high-energy yellow lab and golden mix from Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that places service dogs with people with disabilities. But according to her handler and personal companion, Officer Justin Cheney, Tildy is not your run-of-the-mill service dog.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the difference between a service dog and a facility dog?’” Cheney says. “And without going too much into detail, service dogs generally work one-on-one with their handler. Facility dogs tend to be put into facilities where they can work with multiple amounts of people.”
When Tildy gets to work each morning, she’s prepared to meet new people and provide victim assistance to those that could benefit by having her nearby when talking to law enforcement.
“Tildy is a one-of-a-kind type of dog when she has the vest on. Her primary functions on campus are to meet new people and be engaging with people every single day,” Cheney says.
After proposing the idea to his higher-ups to have a dog with special functions like Tildy’s on campus, Cheney reached out to the police department at Eastern Washington University to learn more about their facility dog, but ultimately, it was not hard to win over the department here in Storrs, he says.
“It doesn’t hurt that your chief loves dogs. He’s actually a big, big dog fan, so that really helped,” Cheney says.
Tildy helps to bridge the gap between the student body and the police department with her calm and loving demeanor, Cheney says.
“She is very, very loving,” Cheney says. “She will meet new people every single day and usually she will come right up to you and let you pet her and she likes to shake paw and hand.”
Between HuskyTHON and basketball games, Tildy is seen interacting with the community just about everywhere, but Cheney says her favorite place is to be in the water.
“We spend a lot of time during the summer at a small lake, and Tildy is one of the best swimming dogs I have ever seen,” he says.
In fact, Tildy has some intense jumping skills. Cheney took her to a dock diving location in Mansfield, and she got as far as 14 feet from the dock.
But at the end of a long day of work, Tildy is like each one of us and looks forward to relaxation time at home with her family, Cheney says.
“[If] there are a lot of people around and she’s getting pet or she’s engaging with a lot of people, it definitely takes a toll on her. It drains her a little bit,” he says. “As long as she gets some rest and she has some downtime where she knows she’s not going to be bothered, she’ll be good to go for the rest of the day.”
After a little over a year here on campus, the dynamic duo are ready to take on another one that’s sure to be just as exciting.
“So far, I think we have done a lot of good things this year, looking at the whole year in a recap. We’re looking to make it even better next year,” Cheney says.