Cash the therapy dog stands in front of Nebraska symbol
Photo provided courtesy of University of Nebraska at Lincoln Police Department

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department recently added a new friendly face to its roster, an 18-month-old Goldendoodle named Cash. 

Cash’s job as a therapy dog is to provide comfort to people in a variety of situations. UNL Police Department Dispatch Director Sarah Haake said the presence of a therapy dog can be a welcome distraction, depending on the situation, whether it’s an officer struggling after a call or a crime victim working with the department who feels uncomfortable in an interview room.

“With the day-to-day stress that police officers, dispatchers and civilians in the police face, it’s nice to have a therapy dog on-site if there’s a bad call or anything like that,” Haake said. “Sometimes just having an animal around helps bridge some of that anxiety gap.”

While working as the department’s dispatch director, Haake doubles as Cash’s handler. She works with him on his various duties and takes him home every night. She accepted the position because her schedule allows flexibility to respond to staff and community needs. Haake completed a standard two-day training with Cash before taking on the role.

In an interview room setting, Cash sits down and stays with the person who may be experiencing discomfort. He is specifically trained not to jump or roam around but to be a calm presence in a potentially tense environment, Haake said.

According to Haake, as Cash is a larger-sized dog weighing 70 pounds, he is sometimes told to lay completely on his side, specifically around children, to be less threatening or overwhelming. 

While at the department, Cash is focused on his duties. At home, he gets downtime where he can be a puppy. Haake described him as an energetic dog that loves people, on and off campus.

“When we put on his vest, he is very aware of being at work,” Haake said. “But if I take his vest off, he is a typical 18-month-old puppy, and he runs around crazy.”

Cash was trained by a Lincoln-based organization called Domesti-PUPS, which focuses on providing therapy and service dogs to people or groups in need. The non-profit partners with the Nebraska Department of Corrections where inmates provide some of the training. The dogs are started early and go through a variety of training before receiving certification.

According to Haake, Cash was initially intended to be a full-service dog. However, one of the tests in this training process consists of a trainer dropping something on the floor and making sure the dog doesn’t go after it. This test aims to ensure that if someone in need of help drops medication or something they need, the dog doesn’t pick it up. 

“Unfortunately for Cash, he just can’t leave things alone,” Haake said. “They knew that he wouldn’t be a good fit for a full-service dog, but he has a great temperament. He loves people, and so they changed his career and made him a therapy dog.”

Cash isn’t the dog’s first name. Domesti-PUPS originally named him Hershey, as he was born around Valentine’s Day of 2021. Haake crowdfunded the money to pay for the therapy dog and gave the person or organization that made the largest organization the choice of choosing his final name. The Nebraska Credit Union made the largest donation and came up with “Cash.”

Haake said she gave the dog two separate plates. On one she wrote Hershey and the other Cash, giving him the choice of the final name. He brought back Cash, and they stuck with that.

While supporting the police department internally, Cash also attends on-campus events, such as football games or job fairs, to make sure he has a presence with the student body as well as in the department.

“A lot of students have to leave their dogs at home when they come to campus, and so it’s kind of a nice reminder to be able to see him,” Haake said. “It’s just the overall joy and happiness of being able to have a dog on campus because, with our policy, we can’t just have pets running around. So, it’s been nice to have a little bit of a way to give back to the community.” 

In the future,  Haake plans to organize events with Cash around midterms and finals for students. She also said they are working on setting up “Cuddle with Cash” hours, where students can sign up to spend time with the dog.