Meet Ruggles. This is the new community service dog at Salve Regina University in Newport. On freshman move-in day, he spent most of the morning greeting the new students with his handler from the Office of Safety and Security.
Ruggles is a 9-month-old black lab. His main function at the university is to bring joy to the campus and to comfort students in crisis situations. Today, he’s one of the most popular faculty members and he has over 1300 followers on his Instagram account!
The university didn’t always have a community service dog. The idea actually came from the director of safety, security, and EMS, Michael Carulo, who recognized how joyful students became when parents brought family dogs on campus to visit their children and wards. He decided to do some research and realized that many other universities and public safety offices across the country had their own comfort animals on campus.
He decided that he wanted a community resource dog, rather than a comfort animal who could assist the Office of Safety and Security and support students in crisis but also be a friendly face on campus to make things a bit homier. Ruggles came into the picture through a man named Matt Betts. He owns an organization named Canine Instincts in Portsmouth and together they worked tediously over the course of a few months to find a dog with the right temperament and demeanor for campus living.
Once vetted and trained, Ruggles was introduced to handlers who were also trained to ensure they had the patience and discipline to properly integrate him into campus life. Finally, in June 2021, Ruggles joined the university staff. Through gradual exposure during summer class, small groups, tours and so forth, they were able to get him properly acclimated. He is also a naturally soft and friendly dog so it wasn’t very difficult for him to get along with the campus family.
As a matter of fact, Salve Regina University is the first and only university within the State of Rhode Island to have a full-time community resource dog. Ruggles has also been a great help on campus, especially during the pandemic, with an enrollment of about 2,000 students.
Image Credit: Salve Regina University