Coleman prompted Elvy to bark, and he pinned a Brown police badge to her harness vest.
“She’s tired already,” O’Connor quipped during his remarks. “She hasn’t asked me for vacation time but she’s working hard.”
Providing comfort, building community
The one-and-a-half-year-old Labrador retriever came to Brown DPS via an organization called Puppies Behind Bars, which trains incarcerated individuals to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans, first responders and law enforcement officers. Dogs are specifically bred, raised and trained for the program, and selected for their temperament.
“She’s trained to be present and friendly and to be petted,” Chatman said. “There is also science behind this and evidence that the presence of comfort dogs reduces blood pressure, lowers anxiety and elevates moods.”
Colleges and universities around the country have welcomed service dogs as part of their public safety departments. During her inaugural week at Brown, Elvy participated in New Student Orientation activities and fairs and attended the pep rally for the volleyball team in the Pizzitola Sports Center. Her community engagement efforts even extend to an Instagram account.
“People have been petting her and asking about her,” Coleman said. “She opens up conversations, and it helps people see beyond my uniform and get to know me as a person doing my job so they can learn about the department and all the programs we offer the community, such as property registration, self-defense courses, safety walks and first aid programs.”
Elvy completed 10 months of training in socialization at the Otisville and Fishkill prisons in New York, learning dozens of commands. During her training, she spent weekends in New York City with civilians and learned to acclimate to crowds, public transportation, elevators and noise.
During the ceremony, Coleman showed the audience a book that contained letters from each incarcerated individual, foster family and trainer who worked with Elvy through the Puppies Behind Bars training program. He read a passage from an incarcerated person who referred to Elvy as “the queen” and wrote with fondness that “you licked my face the moment I held you in my arms.”
“She’s bonding Brown DPS with all of you in the Brown community,” Coleman said during the ceremony. “I’ve seen in two short weeks, I’ve been stopped more times than I can count.
“It takes probably an hour and a half for me to get across the main green,” he added with a laugh.