Eastern Police adds furry friend to the team



Penny the EIU Law Enforcement Therapy Dog resting in her crate with a tennis ball

Adriana Hernandez-Santana, Editor-in-Chief

After a weeklong of training, Chief of police Marisol Gamboa is proud to introduce the newest member to campus police. 

Welcome Penny the Law Enforcement Therapy dog!

Penny is a foxhound beagle mix who underwent months of training at the Paws and Stripes academy in Florida, the only nationally recognized law enforcement therapy dog academy in the United States. She is just under a year old and loves to give hugs and offer kisses. 

According to Gamboa, she has been curious about comfort therapy dogs in law enforcement for a while. But she wanted to learn more about how a comfort therapy dog could help benefit EIU and its students. 

After a bit of research, she learned that the dogs are mostly deployed during midterms and finals week, and prove to help out a lot during these times of high stress. But it is not just on campus where Penny can prove to be helpful, but also in special or traumatic situations as well. 

“When we went to Florida, one of the statistics is they saw an increase in convictions. For one of the scenarios, they gave us child abuse, or sexual assault of a child. They take the therapy dog in there to do the initial interview with the child and the child feels comfortable telling their story. Then the same therapy dog will follow the child to the court proceedings, and sit in the witness box.”

Due to these circumstances, any scenario can be a learning and training opportunity for Penny, hence which is why it is so important for her to keep having these experiences throughout campus and Charleston. 

In terms of funding to get Penny here, the police department was provided with a mental health grant that allowed them to travel to Florida to get the training they needed.

Gamboa’s training with Penny was for a week, Penny has already been training for a few months.

Officer Penny and her badges and credentials (Adriana)

“She was taught basic obedience. She was taught to be around loud noises they actually set up and it’s almost like an obstacle course,” says Gamboa. 

Even though Penny has been training for a while, she is always learning new techniques on how to support those in need, which is why exposing her to as many social situations is so critical. 

“She’s not gonna get distracted with all the noise or anything that’s around her. She was also taught to not be around other dogs. She can be at arm’s length from a dog, or there’s a chance  she’ll start behaving more like a puppy,” says Gamboa. 

But there’s no need to worry about Penny not having enough interaction! Despite the fact that this is her first week on campus, she has already been getting so much attention that by the time she gets home, she goes right to sleep from too much excitement.

“She gets to rest in the guest room and has the same setup, and she has her toys in there, so she gets to just enjoy her time and rest up for another day of hard work,” says Gamboa.