Campus Community Lines Up for Puppy Kisses and Selfies at Terp Carnival
Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle
The newest member of the University of Maryland Police Department won’t patrol the campus or direct traffic. But he can respond to emergencies by rolling over for belly rubs.
Teddy, the first comfort dog to join the force, will soon be assigned to calm community members during times of tragedy and crisis, and serve as UMPD ambassador at campus events, giving students, faculty and staff more opportunities to engage with officers.
“We’ve seen how well a comfort dog works for community outreach at other campuses, and we’re proud to join our partners in campus policing to bring this program to College Park,” said UMPD Chief David Mitchell. UMPD modeled its program after the one at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and even got its dog from the same breeder.
Teddy made his campus debut at the Homecoming Terp Carnival last week. Despite a rainy, washed-out Friday that moved the festivities indoors, the line to meet the 4-month-old chocolate Labrador stretched all the way to the back of the Student Involvement Suite at Stamp Student Union.
“I heard about Teddy being here today and since this week has been really stressful, I thought this would be a great opportunity to relax,” said Bryant Rivera-Cortez ’25. “I miss my own dog back home. It was so nice to play with a dog for a bit.”
Relieving anxiety and stress is exactly what UMPD hopes Teddy will be able to do once he completes his comfort dog training, so that he can serve as an extra resource for students and community members during times of crisis.
“If we have a tragic event, the dog would respond with his handler, and act as a liaison between the police department and the community while we investigate what occurred,” Mitchell said. “What can help you steady your nerves more than anything is an animal that is very friendly and trained to do this kind of work.”
Teddy isn’t UMPD’s first K9; the department has five explosive detection dogs, but they serve a very different role and can’t be petted or picked up. Teddy’s job, meanwhile, is to blissfully accept head scratches and offer slobbery kisses.
Though he joined UMPD two months ago, he’s been getting puppy vaccinations, getting acclimated to his handler, Officer Melissa Fischer, and starting his comfort dog training, so prior to Homecoming, he hadn’t met large groups of students.
Now that UMPD has gotten the green light from his veterinarian, “We’re looking forward to doing lots of meet and greets so people will get to know the dog,” said Major Carolyn Consoli, comfort dog program coordinator.
Mitchell hopes Teddy will help students feel more comfortable approaching officers on campus.
“We want to be seen as guardians, not warriors,” said Mitchell. “After seeing the horrible, tragic and unacceptable police behavior that has been in the media the last year, we know that has an impact on how people see people in uniform.”
Thanks to Teddy’s charming green eyes and endlessly affable personality, Mitchell’s hopes are starting to be realized.
“It definitely makes UMPD seems more approachable and relatable,” said Derreck Boateng-Agyemang ’24, who joined the long line to pet the puppy. “Everybody loves dogs, so it’s an easy way to start a conversation.”
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