Meet Levi, VUPD’s newest addition to the Community Canine program

After a vigorous vetting process, Levi has joined VUPD’s Community Canine program as its second K-9 officer.

Officer+kneeling+next+to+Levi+on+Vanderbilt%27s+campus

Levi lays next to his handler, Sergeant Cheryl Bradley. (VUPD/Lieutenant Jason Bates)

Sally Johnson

Levi, an eight-year-old whippet and miniature pinscher mix, will join Vanderbilt’s Community Canine program according to a Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) Instagram post on Oct. 11. 

Levi will join Officer Jack, a yellow Labrador retriever and the first member of the canine program, and drop in on events and public gathering spaces around campus. Levi and Officer Jack were selected for VUPD through the Paws and Stripes program which looks for dogs that have dispositions suited for therapy or forensic examination work. 

“The instructor that helps run Paws and Stripes was adamant that this dog was specifically going to fit what we were going to use him for,” Levi’s handler, Sergeant Cheryl Bradley, said. 

Per Special Operations K-9 Handler Lieutenant Jason Bates, dogs are funneled into Paws and Stripes through the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. The department has created a program that pairs abandoned or surrendered dogs with inmates of Brevard County Jail. 

“The inmates work with the dogs for eight to ten weeks, evaluating the dogs’ temperament, behavior, how the dogs respond to new people, loud noises, new environments,” Bates said. “They document all this and, at the same time, work with the dog on obedience.” 

Bates added that Levi came to this program after he was surrendered as a result of a divorce. After graduating from this course, he entered into Paws and Stripes and was considered by VUPD. 

Once it was determined that his temperament and obedience skills would lead to success in the Community Canine program, he was paired with Bradley, who completed a final round of training with him. 

“Training was for one week. That consisted of basic obedience and us getting acclimated to each other and me learning the commands that he’s been taught, so that I can put that into our daily routine,” Bradley said. 

According to Bates, VUPD created the Community Canine program in an effort to improve community relations with the police department as well as to create an avenue for students to relieve stress. He added that, in his two years on campus, Officer Jack’s introduction has been a success and that it was his popularity that led VUPD to consider an addition to the program.

First-year student Sriya Nemani said she recently interacted with Levi on campus and thinks that he could be a positive influence on campus as a feel-good dog. 

“He was cute. I pet him a lot. It was stress relieving,” Nemani said. 

However, Nemani said that her interaction with Levi did not significantly improve her perception of VUPD as, at the time, she was not fully informed about Levi’s role in the department. 

“It depends on how the dog is used. If the purpose of the dog is stress-relief, then, sure, it could be positive for VUPD,” Nemani added. 

Levi and Officer Jack will be on campus on alternating days during the evening hours, except on Thursdays when they will both be on duty. 

“[Jack] was so popular that we felt we needed another one,” Bates said. “I’m not sure that we’re done growing the program.”