DENVER (KDVR) — Castle Rock Middle School welcomed a new therapy dog and school resource officer last week.
Officer Dave Knight rescued Ru, a 2-year-old Husky Malamute mix, from a local shelter last February.
Noticing his calming energy, Knight realized Ru had potential as a therapy dog and got him certified, according to a release from the Town of Castle Rock. He donated Ru to the Castle Rock Police Department to work as a police therapy dog.
“That was kind of hard because he means a lot to me but in the end, nothing really changes for him,” Knight said in a video posted by Douglas County Schools.
Knight said he wants the best for the community as he grew up just a few blocks away and was a student at Castle Rock Middle School himself. Now he is back, serving as an SRO there alongside Ru.
“I just love this community and being able to interact with all the students here and being able to serve the same school that I attended, I thought it was really cool,” Knight said.
Knight said Ru made an immediate difference in many ways. Whether that’s helping students or staff to emotionally regulate, alleviating fears during lockdown drills or assisting Affective Needs classrooms, Knight said he can see the impact in every interaction.
“It’s not like a lot of kids get in trouble here or anything like that, it’s more just being here for students if they are having any issues that I can help with, I want to be able to help them,” Knight said. “It’s rewarding for me and I think a big help for those students also.”
Knight said there are times when students and staff come to see Ru in tears, but seeing them go from being upset to leaving with a smile means the world to him and Ru.
“People see Ru and they just smile,” he said. “A lot of people ask me what his job is, and his job is really just to make people smile, and he does a really good job at that.”
Students said the duo is friendly and fun to talk to.
One student described both Officer Knight and Ru as “warm friendly beings” who are comfortable to talk to. Another student said they bring a feeling of safety to the school.
Qualified for the job
Aside from Ru’s friendly energy qualifying him for the job, the duo holds many credentials, including a Multi-Discipline Therapy K-9 certification, which they earned through the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws and Stripes College in Florida.
Knight and Ru passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen Basic, Urban and Advanced programs. They also earned American Kennel Club Therapy Dog Novice and Therapy Dog Advanced titles.
Police Chief Jack Cauley said the Police Therapy Dog program has been transformative for the community.
“The reach of these police therapy dogs extends beyond our middle and high schools to serve students and staff across Castle Rock. We’re so proud of the work they’re doing every day,” Cauley said.
Officer Knight said he hopes he and Ru can inspire other agencies across the state and country to bring in therapy dogs.