Over the course of a median semester on a school campus, students experience a wide selection of emotions as class assignments are due, internship deadlines approach, social circles change and skilled developments are made. When these ups and downs result in added stress and anxiety, students should hunt down the support services offered at Bentley, including the Counseling Center, a trusted advisor or professor — and, in fact, Blue the comfort dog.
Possibly the most endearing resource on campus, the two-and-a-half-year-old black Lab first joined University Police in 2020 after completing six months of comfort-dog training at Hero Pups, Inc., a Recent Hampshire based non-profit that trains and pairs support dogs with veterans and first responders throughout Recent England. In his training, Blue learned the way to be comfortable around strangers and huge crowds and was trained to stay calm, approachable and social. Those skills have served him well in his two years on campus and has made him a resource to students in need of comfort or support.
Blue’s handler, Sergeant Tobe Bartkus in University Police, helps to maintain him focused and on task while making rounds together to ascertain in on community safety and wellness on campus. A member of the Bentley community for near six years, Sergeant Bartkus is a member of University Police’s Crisis Intervention Unit and responds to calls of scholars in need of medical or emotional assistance. “On college campuses over the past 4 to 5 years, there’s been an enormous uptick in mental health needs and stress,” he says. University Police saw Blue as a vital partner to bring on board to combat this rise in stress and anxiety, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a typical day, Blue eagerly claims his spot riding shotgun within the cruiser as he and Sergeant Bartkus make their rounds and reply to calls. When he’s not on campus, Blue lives permanently with Sergeant Bartkus and his family, which incorporates a newborn (human) and two other dogs. At home, Blue is high energy and playful, holding his own together with his two furry companions. But when he puts on his University Police work vest, the canine skilled is trained to right away snap into work mode. “Once he has the vest, he knows it’s business time,” says Sergeant Bartkus.
For this comfort dog, which means being able to interact with a high volume of scholars, something that will normally tire out an untrained dog. But due to his time with Hero Pups, Inc. and the guidance of Sergeant Bartkus, Blue at all times stays calm regardless of what number of students, faculty or staff come to pet him.
In some cases, students reach out to University Police on to request time with the department’s four-legged friend. In these casual encounters, Sergeant Bartkus and Blue have helped to comfort students feeling homesick, stressed or anxious — but they’ve also been there in additional serious situations.
“Sometimes we get calls about students experiencing a panic attack or anxiety for the primary time of their life,” said Sergeant Bartkus. “So Blue and I pay them a visit and produce them to the Health Center or Counseling Center to consult with someone. I at all times say that ‘We’re the primary responder, not the last responder.’ Walking with Blue really takes their mind off how they’re feeling and keeps them calm as we get them to the help they need.”