Davenport University is happy to announce the newest member of its Public Safety staff, Onyx the therapy dog.
Onyx comes to Davenport from Paws With A Cause, an international nonprofit organization headquartered in Wayland, Mich. She is a 2-year-old purebred Black Labrador Retriever and was selected for her demeanor. Her favorite toy is Mr. Quackers and in her free time, she enjoys playing with her younger brother Odin and going on walks.
Onyx and her handler also serve as first responders to campus community members in need.
Brett Windsor, the program founder and Onyx’s handler, came to Davenport from the University of Michigan Health-West hospital where he served in the security department.
“I was able to see first-hand people suffering from mental health crises and always wanted to provide more support to those individuals in need,” he said. “When I transitioned to Davenport, I still had the same passion to better assist those suffering from a mental health crisis. Having responded to multiple student residents with mental health needs, I knew our team needed a tool to better bridge that gap and better connect with the Davenport community.”
Onyx works Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., primarily on the Grand Rapids Lettinga campus where she often lends a paw at the university’s new Wellness Center. She also will occasionally visit Davenport’s other 5 campuses to work with students and attend events.
“We’re committed to supporting the health and well-being of the Davenport community,” said Dr. Richard Pappas, Davenport University president. “The addition of Onyx to our Public Safety staff is another way we can strengthen this support system. She’ll be there for not only our students but our faculty and staff, too.”
The university has seen a 105% increase in mental health services utilized by students since the pandemic. This increase in utilization is aligned with national trends. The 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey found that demand for anxiety and depression treatment has increased by nearly 40% among adolescents ages 13–25.
“Studies have proven that interacting with pets can significantly reduce cortisol levels – which are known to indicate stress,” said Windsor. “Onyx’s addition to the team gives us a tool to diffuse difficult situations and help students relax. She has already proven herself to be a valuable resource to the Davenport Community.”
As is fitting for an assignment with an institution of higher education, Onyx is committed to life-long learning. She has undergone a year and a half of training and will complete 18 weeks of training with her handler and another 8 weeks with the assistant handlers in the coming months.
Friends can visit Onyx’s Instagram, K9_Onyx, to get involved and follow her journey around campus. The therapy dog program was funded through a Davenport University M.E. Legacy Endowment Fund grant.