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EIU Media Relations

EIU’s therapy dogs making a positive impact on & off campus



(Charleston, IL) – Petting a police officer has never been so soothing. Police officers Penny and Koji are two of Eastern Illinois University Police Department’s smallest police officers who also work together to serve as EIU’s therapy dogs.

Penny (pictured at left), a 40-pound Hound-Beagle mix, has earned the title of a “multi-discipline dog.” After being rescued nine months ago, Penny received police-certified training from the only nationally recognized law enforcement therapy dog program, Paws in Stripes. In this Florida academy, she was taught basic obedience, which involves being petted, giving hugs, and remaining calm.

After her hard work in the Paws in Stripes academy, Penny was teamed up to work with her new partner, EIU Police Chief Marisol Gamboa. And though Penny goes home with Chief Gamboa, Penny is not Gamboa’s personal dog. Instead, Gamboa explains, “she is trained in a specific skill and provides services to others within our community.”

Multi-discipline dogs serve crucial roles in the judicial system by maintaining the mental health of trauma survivors, ultimately leading to better outcomes. Multi-discipline dogs, Gamboa explains, can help trauma survivors—such as survivors from major traffic accidents or sexual assault—by providing comfort during interviews and testimonies, hopefully offering them the security to more steadily provide information that could ultimately lead to legal pursuits of justice.

Penny’s special skill set also includes assisting in courtroom procedures, listening to her handler, forensic interviewing, assisting the Department of Children and Family services with child removal, relocating families impacted by domestic violence, and providing immediate response to crisis incidents or other violent acts.

Koji, now two and a half years old, will follow in Penny’s paw-steps and earn certification this April. Koji, as EIU Police Sergeant Andrea Beals notes, loves his brother Goliath and all people alike. Koji is rather extroverted. Like Penny, Beals explains, Koji loves to initiate contact with people and break the ice.

Both Penny and Koji are very vocal about their desires for attention, which are regularly on display. Chief Gamboa and Sergeant Beals occasionally host “Coffee with a Cop,” which includes police officers Koji and Penny as well at EIU’s Java Beanery and Bakery. Coffee with a Cop allows the EIU community to communicate with the EIU police department in a positive, agenda-free setting. Oftentimes, Penny and Koji are the first to introduce themselves. Gamboa and Beals have brought their four-legged partners Penny and Koji to the EIU Bookstore, Student Life, University Board meetings and residence halls.

The therapy dogs program for EIU’s police department is funded through the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Mental Health Early Action on Campus Grant. “We do it because it is important,” Chief Gamboa explains, “and because it helps the EIU community.”

Part of being a multi-discipline dog, as Penny is certainly aware, is the continual training each dog undergoes. And even though Penny is a dog, she is still a police officer: She can’t just walk off when she smells the aromas emanating from the Union’s Food Court. She must remain at work as an on-duty police officer.



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Contact Information

Media Relations
Josh Reinhart,
Public Information Coordinator

Booth House
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920

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