Tuesday, April 9, 2019
For University of Connecticut police officer Justin Cheney, a day on campus would not be complete without his canine companion Officer Tildy, a three-year-old yellow lab/golden retriever mix who has worked as a facility dog in the department’s community outreach unit since 2018.
Although Tildy and Officer Cheney visit branch campuses like Avery Point and other locations throughout the state, Cheney said their normal days at Storrs are often packed with classes and exciting events.
“We do a lot of active threat training programs and classes like We Stand Up, which is a Men Preventing Violence Against Women program,” Cheney says. “Tildy will usually come in, and I will introduce her to the class or the students that we are doing the program for. She will then proceed to rest for the entirety of the program and usually towards the end kids will come say hi to her and pet her, and I show some commands to those who want to see them.”
Because Tildy is still a dog who requires at least some relaxation throughout the day, Cheney said he makes it a point to ensure that Tildy gets her necessary self-care time.
“Depending on the day, I try to give her at least 45 minutes to an hour and a half of rest where she actually has some dedicated time on a bed or in her kennel,” Cheney said. “She prefers the kennel because it is closed off, so she knows she is safe in there because it is her house and her ‘home.’”
A UConn alumnus, Cheney said he has long been devoted to serving the campus community, even long before Tildy was introduced.
“Being a former student here and growing up in the Storrs area, I love this town, this college and this campus,” Cheney said. “Being in public safety now gives me a sense of fulfillment to safeguard those who are going through the same schooling that I went through.”
Tildy frequently is present at Study Break with a Cop events, which are held right before finals to try to help students alleviate some of their jitters before exams. Additionally, Tildy’s Instagram handle (@uconnpd_officertildy) contains over 200 pictures of the canine at events on campus and posing with students and faculty.
“With having Tildy, it brings this whole different dynamic with my job where not only do I get to be a police officer, but I also get to utilize Tildy to connect with students,” Cheney said. “Some people are not always as willing and wanting to approach law enforcement, and I get it. But with Tildy, she at least reduces that feeling for most.”
Easing the tension that can exist between the public and law enforcement is also beneficial to contributing to the tight-knit feeling of UConn as a whole, Cheney added.
“The more people I can reach out to, the bigger we get as a community,” Cheney said. “My goal is to make sure that every student who comes through UConn gets to at least meet Tildy once.”
Tildy agreed with her handler’s thoughts and is excited to come to campus everyday to interact with UConn students.
“Woof,” Tildy said