BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The newest member of the Indiana University Police Department has four legs and an intense love of tennis balls. Her name is Honey, and she’s the department’s first therapy dog.
IU Police Department Public Information Officer Hannah Skibba and Honey, IUPD's therapy dog. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University
IUPD’s new therapy dog program continues the department’s mission to take a holistic approach to supporting officers and the IU community. A therapy K9 can assist first responders during a mental health crisis or provide stress relief after a traumatic event.
“A therapy dog like Honey can help reduce anxiety and fear and increase opportunities for communication with the individuals we’re helping,” said Hannah Skibba, public information officer for IU Public Safety and Honey’s handler. “She’s also a great resource for our police officers to help them manage any stress or trauma they may be experiencing.”
Weighing in at just over 40 pounds, Honey is the smallest of IUPD’s K9 unit, which also includes Labradors Cash and Indy, who specialize in explosive detection. As a therapy dog, Honey provides companionship and calm, broadening IUPD’s options for assisting those in need.
Honey, a Plott hound, will turn 2 in January. Her curious, playful and loving personality has made her popular with almost everyone she meets.
She’s made herself at home around the police department and knows which staff members keep a supply of treats in their office. You’ll find her loping down the hall to chase a tennis ball or stopping by someone’s desk for a friendly scratch behind the ears.
Honey, IUPD's therapy dog, greets people at the Sample Gates at IU Bloomington. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University
In visits around IU’s campuses across the state, Honey greets students, faculty and staff with a cheerful wag of her tail. Before joining Skibba and the IUPD, Honey was rescued from an animal shelter and trained by jail inmates in basic obedience through the Paws and Stripes College in Brevard County, Florida. This training program is nationally recognized as one of the only therapy dog training programs specifically for law enforcement and first responders.
Honey’s temperament and behavior made her the perfect fit for the Law Enforcement and Multidiscipline Crimes Against Persons Therapy Dog Training program, where she graduated with Skibba on Sept. 15.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Honey every day and for the support from the IUPD to offer this therapy dog program,” Skibba said. “When people see Honey and I around, I hope they’ll come up and say hello, because she’s eager to get to know the IU community and provide comfort whenever she can.”