Grace, a yellow Labrador, is one of two therapy dogs for the Lehigh Police Department. Grace is currently in training to be a K9 therapy dog. (Courtesy of Lehigh Communications)

LUPD introduces therapy dogs to Lehigh


The Lehigh University Police Department (LUPD) has brought a new staff member on board: a Labrador Retriever named Grace. 

LUPD is incorporating two therapy dogs, including Grace, into their services. Lehigh police chief Jason Schiffer said Grace began working with officers at the beginning of the fall semester.

In March, Schiffer said he read an article about a therapy dog at Princeton University’s police department. After reading about the impact dogs can have on a college campus, Schiffer said he immediately questioned if it was possible to bring a therapy dog to Lehigh.

Grace, a yellow Labrador, is one of two therapy dogs for the Lehigh Police Department. Grace is currently in training to be a K9 therapy dog. (Photo Courtesy of  Lehigh Communications)

LUPD hopes the “Lehigh Labs” will provide relief to student stress while also encouraging positive interactions between Lehigh students and officers. 

 “Seeing the successes at Princeton and Yale made me think, if we can do something to provide a positive interaction (and bring) some comfort to our students, something to make them smile, why not?” Schiffer said.

 After the LUPD decided to pursue this idea, Schiffer said it had to make decisions regarding sourcing the therapy dogs and their training. 

 “‘Which avenue were we going to go down? What do we think is going to fit best at Lehigh? And, what’s going to be certified (so) that we know that the animal will be properly trained and then can interact in the best way possible?” Schiffer said.

 Schiffer said the LUPD decided to work with D&S Retrievers, a Labrador breeder in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. 

 Lt. David Kokinda, who oversees criminal investigations, is Grace’s partner. 

“(Kokinda) is often talking with people in difficult situations,” Schiffer said. “If Grace could be there to provide some comfort to somebody who’s going through emotional turmoil and struggling to deal with whatever may have happened, that could be a positive thing for the students involved.”

 Abigail Jones, ‘25, met Grace over the summer through Gryphon training.  She said students feel as though going to the police, regardless of the situation, is negatively connoted, and having the therapy dog makes the environment more welcoming.

“I feel she’s going to be helpful in keeping people calm in times of upset,” Jones said. “And being available for anybody, especially for people who missed their dogs at home.”

Student Senate president Victoria Drzymala, ‘23, said she thinks Grace will help the LUPD build better relations with students. 

Schiffer said Grace has not yet been officially trained due to her age. Official therapy dog training will begin when she reaches five months old, and she will become fully certified when she is one year old. 

 Schiffer said the training is a two-week intensive course where Grace will begin her journey to becoming fully certified. 

 “I like the fact that Grace can be taken to any student event, any student run organization, so she can get to meet a lot of people and a lot of people can hang out with her,” Drzymala said. 

Grace visited the Club Expo on Aug. 25, where students were able to meet her and speak to officers. 

 Schiffer said there was a line of students waiting to interact with Grace at the LUPD table. In past years, he said few students had engaged with them at the event.

Schiffer said LUPD is working to plan events where anyone in need can meet Grace.

Schiffer said, this spring, students can expect to see another dog joining LUPD. A chocolate labrador retriever, who has yet to be named, has been partnered with officer Stephen Romanic.

 “We’re excited to see where this goes,” Schiffer said. “I think it’s up to the student population on what they would like to see and how they would like to interact with the animals as they grow and learn. I think there’s a lot of positivity that can come from it.”

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