Therapy Dog Works Alongside His Owner in UVA’s Police Department

March 31, 2020

What do hot dogs, chicken and cheese have in common? These treats were the great motivators for Cooper, a miniature American shepherd who just graduated from doggie therapy school and is joining his owner, Community Service and Crime Prevention Sgt. Benjamin Rexrode, at the University of Virginia’s Police Department.

The American Kennel Club describes the breed as “good-natured, intelligent and devoted” – an excellent combination of traits for a therapy dog.

Rexrode has wanted to purchase and train a therapy dog for a long, long time.

He and his wife initially thought it would be good for their children. “We just thought it would be a good thing to do for us, like a volunteer thing with our kids, to get them out, volunteering and doing something,” he said.

That, and being able to bring Cooper to UVA to engage with the University community, made it a “no-brainer,” said Rexrode, who purchased the dog and paid for its training.

“What a wonderful addition Cooper is to the University of Virginia Police Department family,” interim UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said. “It is especially important to recognize Sgt. Rexrode for the creative approach that he has chosen in an effort to meet the needs of our University community by incorporating Cooper’s talents into our work.

“I also believe that it is important to note that Ben has made a personal contribution of his time, energy and financial resources in acquiring Cooper and ensuring the proper training and subsequent certification required of service animals. I deeply appreciate his generosity and look forward to working with him and Cooper as they go about their good work.”

The adventure began last January, after a friend-of-a-friend told Rexrode a breeder in Michigan had a dog she wanted to rehome. Said to be friendly and sweet, the miniature American shepherd seemed the perfect fit, so the police officer hit the road on a winter Friday, driving 12 hours and heading into a snowstorm to retrieve Cooper.

“It was during the polar vortex and it was like negative-11 degrees when I got up there to get him,” Rexrode said.

A few months after getting him home, Cooper began training at a place in Stuart’s Draft called Positive Paws.

“We would go to class once a week for like an hour-and-a-half, and you’d learn a new skill for that week, and then you got to work on it at home to try to get them better at it,” Rexrode said.

Finally, Cooper had to do 40 hours of in-service training, going out with other certified therapy dogs to schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes to hone his obedience skills.

Cooper, who has distinctive, ice-blue eyes and is always ready for a belly rub, is settling in nicely at UVA. Rexrode said he excels at cuddling, which is just what you want in a therapy dog.

The simple act of petting a dog has proven stress-reducing effects that Rexrode wants to exploit. Cooper will spend a lot of time on Grounds engaging with the community.

He will also assist with police business. “With crime victims, having a therapy dog can reduce stress and anxiety about going to court or meeting with the police,” he said. “If we can promote ourselves, saying, ‘We want to make the most, welcoming environment, so it’s possible for somebody to report something,’ this is another tool we have to do that.”

Cooper will also be something of a police department mascot. “He can change the mood of officers, who maybe had a busy morning or are dealing with something stressful,” Rexrode said. The simple act of petting Cooper or giving him a scratch behind the ear typically brings a smile, Rexrode said. “Most people love dogs!”

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    January 8, 2021

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    January 8, 2021

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    January 8, 2021

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    January 7, 2021

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    January 7, 2021

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    January 7, 2021

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more

    Police Dog Attack

    January 7, 2021

    A resolution headed to the Duluth City Council on Monday could put to rest a lawsuit filed by Teri Lynn Ehlers, an employee of the Patch Motel, who was bitten by a Duluth police dog named Oakley. Former Duluth Police Officer Marc Johnson was a registered guest of the Warroad establishment May 28, 2018, when […]

    Read more

    PAWS With A Cause

    January 7, 2021

    Pebble Hill Plantation and the Thomas County Public Library are pleased to announce the upcoming Enlightening Bites program, “PAWS With a Cause,” on Friday, January 8, 2021 at noon in the Flipper Room of the Library. The program is being presented by Jeri Anderson, field representative. Anderson is recently retired from the City of Monticello, […]

    Read more

    Police Canine Team

    January 7, 2021

    Kingston Police revealed in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been keeping a four-legged secret for roughly three months. The force announced it added a second canine unit, with the arrival of police service dog Dak this past October. He is working with Const. Jeff Dickson, while police service dog Bask is working […]

    Read more

    K9s For Warriors

    January 7, 2021

    K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides military veterans suffering from severe PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma with service animals, recently changed the name of its main campus to honor its leader and founder Shari Duval. Duval began K9s For Warriors in 2011 after her son returned from two tours in […]

    Read more

    More Recent News