NEWPORT – Early Tuesday afternoon, Ruggles, Salve Regina University’s new community service dog, was sidelined next to his handler at the Office of Safety and Security.
It was move-in day for the freshmen and the young pup had spent the morning greeting the new students.
Three months ago, the university welcomed Ruggles, a 9-month-old black lab whose job it is to comfort students in crisis and bring joy to campus, and he is quickly becoming one of the most popular employees at the university, with 1,383 followers on his Instagram account.
The idea to acquire a community service dog at the university came after Michael Caruolo, director of safety, security and EMS, noticed the joy on the faces of the students when parents brought their dogs. family visiting their children on campus.
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“I started to do some research and found out that there were universities and public safety offices across the country that were purchasing comfort animals for their campuses. I didn’t necessarily want to exclusively identify one. dog on campus as a comfort animal, but a bit more versatile and identify it as a community resource dog, ”Caruolo said.
Ruggles’ intended role on campus is to provide assistance to the Office of Safety and Security when students are in crisis, but also to be a familiar and friendly face to students on campus, so that ‘they feel a bit more like home. , he said.
The school acquired Ruggles through Matt Betts, owner of Canine Instincts in Portsmouth, in a long process. Caruolo said he spent months working to find a dog with the right temperament and behavior to be able to adapt to a community environment on campus.
“We have thousands of students on campus daily and it was very important that the dog had the right temperament and behavior to be able to handle this kind of attention,” he said.
Once Ruggles was found he lived with Betts, who controlled him and trained him for his job.
“Then we started to integrate our handlers into the training program. The dog handlers that I have chosen, they were very carefully chosen to ensure that they had the patience and discipline to ensure that they properly integrated the dog into the campus and implemented the program. as we saw fit, ”Caruolo said.
The idea of implementing the community resource dog program was officially accepted by the university in the fall of 2020. Then, in January 2021, the school began to implement a policy on how to manage. the program and in June, Ruggles joined the staff.
Despite being a young dog, Ruggles continues to train and actively work on campus, Caruolo said.
“He’s been gradually exposed to students after working here this summer, to groups and tours, and he’s acclimated really well. He is a very friendly dog, a very gentle dog and he gets along very well with people, ”said Maltais.
The campus community, students, faculty and staff, Maltais said, have received Ruggles very well.
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Ruggles can be booked to make appearances at campus events, but he also walks around the school with his teachers.
“He was very successful walking around campus and entering buildings, administration buildings, university buildings and dormitories. Today we had the first day of moving in to freshman, so he had a busy day for himself. He’s a little tired, ”said Maltais.
Salve Regina University is the first and only state university in Rhode Island to have a full-time community resource dog.
“He just puts a smile on everyone’s face and in the event that a student is going through a crisis, his very presence tends to be calming, tends to turn things around, and that’s really the whole idea. He maintains a constant presence around him, on campus, in our venues… at special events, ”said Caruolo.
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Caruolo said it was especially good to have Ruggles on campus, especially this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was very difficult for our community. It was very difficult for our students. It was a difficult time for everyone, and bringing it to campus as part of our program, working with our office, it opens up. lots of doors and more communication between my office and our student body, and it’s a great tool to have in our toolbox, ”he said.
There are approximately 2,000 students enrolled this year at Salve Regina University.
Bethany Brunelle can be reached at [email protected] 907-575-8528 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter, Insta: bethanyfreudenthal, TikTok: thehijabicrimereporter, Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/bethany-freudenthal