Kirby, a big, white, fluffy ball of fur, worked his way around the fourth-floor conference room inside the 507 E Green St. building.
Walking up to every hand that called for him, Kirby the Therapy K9 quietly ventured under tables and waltzed between students sitting next to each other.
Sometimes he effortlessly scootched his way in between two new friends, placed his head on the table and stood still while students took selfies with him.
It was like he knew he needed to look at the camera.
Occasionally Kirby laid down, yawned, and listened to what his handler, UIPD Detective Tara Hurless, had to say about campus safety.
After all, that’s why he was there in Conference Room 411 with members of Cohort 14, the latest students representing this year’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Gifted Student Program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Detective Hurless and Kirby met with the KAUST cohort and Anna Kasten, the KAUST program manager from Global Education and Training on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Hurless was giving a Campus Safety Orientation, and explained what she did and why Kirby tagged along.
Kirby is one of five University Police therapy dogs that are used in outreach programming and during mental health crisis calls.
He’s a member of UIPDs Community Outreach and Support Team (https://police.illinois.edu/services/coast/) and together with his trainer and other COAST members and social workers, they help carry out the Response, Evaluation and Crisis Help (REACH) initiative.
Through the REACH initiative (https://police.illinois.edu/services/reach/), COAST social workers co-respond with officers in mental health emergencies, and the REACH team acts as a wraparound service to connect students with established mental health services and ensure they do not slip through the cracks.
The COAST therapy K9 teams are one of many ways that UIPD officers extend a supportive hand to the campus community.
This is all according to the Division of Public Safety website.
Thank you to Detective Hurless and Kirby for an excellent presentation and for welcoming our KAUST students!
We are looking forward to a great year.