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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VUPD unleashing joy: A profile of Officer Jack and Sergeant Lewis

Make a furry friendship with the canine face of Vanderbilt: Officer Jack and his handler, Sergeant Shaneithia Lewis.
Officer Jack smiles in a suit on the Vanderbilt football field. (Photo courtesy of Sergeant Shaneithia Lewis)

No matter if you live on or off campus, first-year or graduate student, it is simply impossible to claim the title of Commodore until you’ve forged a friendship with the tail-wagging VUPD community canine Officer Jack. Behind our brave boy is his handler, Sergeant Lewis. I recently met up with Jack and Lewis to get some more background and spread some of their infectious joy to the Vanderbilt community. They barely made it there — from Jack’s paws slipping and sliding on the ice en route due to the snow at the time.

To strengthen bonds with students and provide comfort, the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) started a new “Community Canine” team in September 2018. For students who miss home or are feeling alone, nothing rivals the comfort provided by the warm love and gaze of a dog. That September, Lewis made the trip to Brevard County, Florida to fetch Jack from the “Paws and Stripes program,” a program that places carefully selected and trained jail inmates with dogs to assist with the dogs’ training for futures with families or police departments. The initiative not only assists in dog training but also frees up kennel space, giving shelter and rescue dogs a new haven and eventually a forever home. 

Despite completing an initial full training for explosive detection, Jack’s test determined that he was better suited for serving in another area — community service. Sergeant Lewis picked him up from Brevard County, drove the 12 hours back to campus and on Sept. 17, 2018, Jack and Lewis had their first day together at Vanderbilt. 

Inspired by the University of Kentucky, Lewis designed the “Community Canine” program, a program in which therapy dogs bridge the gap between students and the police department, drawing principles from original community policing ideals. The dogs undergo lots of training and receive many certifications from the American Kennel Club’s “Canine Good Citizen” program. All that is to say — Jack is a good boy, and he’s well-qualified to hang out with you. It’s literally in his job description.

For those wanting to learn more about our unofficial mascot, I got some rapid-fire fast facts from Lewis and her trustworthy sidekick, Jack. Jack is a 7-year-old, 85-pound labrador retriever who celebrates his birthday on June 13. He has a birthday party on Peabody campus every year for those who stay in Nashville during the summer. His favorite pastime? That’ll be fetching — preferably with a tennis ball or baseball, but this good boy isn’t picky. He’ll fetch anything, thanks. As a labrador, he’s a little glutton and prefers human food (specifically peanut butter). 

Lewis herself has been a Vanderbilt fixture since 2014, with her first priority being the safety and well-being of the Vanderbilt family. When she’s not on duty, though, she and Jack check out the events on AnchorLink and see what looks like fun. Sporting events, career fairs, student wellbeing festivals and tabling at Rand are some of the places you can find this dynamic duo. If you want to reserve them for your own event, you can access the request form here. They find rewarding responsibilities over at the hospital, where they chat with patients, attempting to de-escalate tensions and frustrations. That’s some pretty serious work for a lab. 

The next time you spot Jack on campus, know that you’re meeting a product of an incredible program in Brevard County and an incredible program here at Vanderbilt. Thank you for your service, Sergeant Lewis and Officer Jack.

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About the Contributor
Caroline Lingle
Caroline Lingle, Staff Writer
Caroline Lingle ('24) is majoring in political science and communication studies and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys exercising and hanging out with one of her four dogs. She can be reached at [email protected].
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5 months ago

It has truly been amazing having Jack as my partner. Jack, Levi and Max has brought so much joy to the Vanderbilt University and Medical Center Community. I appreciate the unconditional love and support from the Vanderbilt University Police Department, K9 Unit, Vanderbilt University and everyone that have crossed the paths of the three amazing furry Community canines.

5 months ago

I always by him peanut butter! At branscomb munch market.that is my buddy! He is my buddy ❤️