Therapy dog joins UVA police force

Therapy dog joins UVA police force
Cooper, a new therapy dog with the UVA Police force. He will help comfort students, victims, and officers in his new role. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia’s newest employee is helping both students and police officers, one lick at a time. UVA police’s new therapy dog, Cooper, is now on the job with his owner and handler, Officer Ben Rexrode.

Rexrode purchased the 18-month-old Australian Shepherd himself, driving more than 12 hours to pick up the pup from Michigan. He also paid for Cooper’s training.

“Most working dogs have a sign that says, ‘working, don’t pet,’ where he has a sign that says ‘please pet me,’"Rexrode said. "So, make sure (they have) the right temperament, and that they’re very obedient, very calm. He picked up the training very easily.”

Cooper has a complex and multifaceted role. He helps comfort students like other UVA therapy dogs, but will also help comfort the victims of crimes. Rexrode says that his presence will help officers on the force as well.

“We work for the long hours, sometimes really stressful hours, depending on what we’re dealing with," Rexrode said. "For police officers to be able to have kind of a department mascot that comes around and puts his head on your lap, sometimes kind of eases that stress a little bit.”

You can find Cooper around UVA, working alongside Officer Rexrode.

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