Campus Life – UConn Today
Who is the most recognizable dog on the UConn campus?
The first thought that comes to mind for many is the beloved Husky mascot Jonathan – and with good reason, for the widespread attention he has gotten over the years.
Officer Lindsey Gionfriddo works with Blaze during agility training. (Photo supplied by UConn K-9 Unit)But what about Blaze, Ranger, and Harper? ‘Who?’ you might say?
These three German shepherds are valuable K-9 members of the UConn Police Department, and are instrumental in a number of areas of law enforcement.
Blaze works with Officer Lindsey Gionfriddo, Ranger with Officer Jonathan Santiago, and Harper, the veteran of the group with four years of service, with Officer Michael Rhodes.
UConn has had police dogs on the force since 1989, but now with three on campus, there are dogs available every day of the week and essentially 24 hours a day.
Blaze and Ranger, along with their officers, went through 15 weeks of rigorous training through the Connecticut State Police Academy in Meriden, graduating from the program in early July.
Blaze scales an obstacle during agility training. (Photo supplied by UConn K-9 Unit)The officers are too modest to talk about it, but the program is physically and mentally challenging for dog and human alike.
The dogs are bred for police and service work. They actually came from the Czech Republic, and were brought to Connecticut Canine Services in Bethany before being selected for the Academy.
Police dogs perform a number of different tasks, such as tracking for lost people, narcotics control (Harper is trained to do that), and evidence recovery. They are also very useful as a deterrent, and serve as goodwill ambassadors to the community.
“The dogs can serve as a bridge between the police and the public,” says Rhodes, who has been a member of the UConn Police since 2004. “We have them …