URBANA — University of Illinois students have named their police department’s latest therapy dog hire after a major campus thoroughfare.
More than half of about 1,000 ballots cast preferred the name Kirby for the 7-month old Samoyed.
The department’s fifth therapy dog is named for Kirby Avenue, a major street that features iconic UI structures such as Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center and is familiar to students, staff, alumni and residents of Champaign County.
“I think it’s very important to have part of our community, which is the new therapy dog, be part of the campus community,” said UI police chief Alice Cary. “And taking ownership of that name is something that kind of connects our agency with the students.”
Although Kirby’s official therapy training begins this fall, he has already made public appearances with his handler, UI police Detective Tara Hurless, also a UI graduate.
“He’s very easy to love on,” Hurless said. “We’re working on sitting, shaking, laying down. I’d love to teach him to hug. He’s still young; I think he’s still got a lot of learning to do. But he’s got a great personality to interact with.”
An ardent proponent of therapy dogs, Cary brought K-9 Archie with her from the University of Maryland when she joined the department as chief in July 2020. And last year, she incorporated therapy dogs as members of the Community Outreach and Support Team, which responds to calls for mental-health episodes.
“Therapy dogs are a great community engagement tool, for one,” Cary said. “But additionally, they bring great relief for stressful and stressful situations. Students often times experience stress during midterms or final exams, and all the pressures that are associated with being a student. The dogs bring in a comforting atmosphere.”
Hurless said Kirby was donated to the department by a local breeder whose dogs recently had puppies.