Davenport’s therapy dog brings joy to everyone she meets

It’s been a year and a half since Onyx, the therapy dog, joined Davenport University’s Department of Public Safety. During that time, she was busy getting to know everyone on campus and learning how to help people feel safe and welcome. 

Onyx is a three-year-old purebred Black Labrador Retriever who came to Davenport from Paws With A Cause and was made possible through a grant from Davenport University’s M.E. Legacy Endowment Fund.

Her handler is Brett Windsor, Davenport’s assistant director of Public Safety, and he initially got the idea of obtaining a therapy dog while working at a hospital in the security department.

“While working at the hospital, I would quite often see people suffering from mental health crises and always wanted to be able to provide more support to those individuals,” said Windsor. “When I came to Davenport, I still had the same passion to better assist those suffering from a mental health crisis. After responding to multiple student residents with mental health needs, I knew our team could use a tool to help bridge that gap and better connect with the Davenport community,” he said. 

So far, Onyx has exceeded Windsor’s expectations, and he said her presence on campus is crucial for several reasons.

“Interacting with a service animal like Onyx is known to release dopamine, which helps improve a person’s mood,” said Windsor. “For many students, it’s their first time away from home, and Onyx provides that much-needed emotional lift.”

Interacting with pets has also been proven to significantly reduce cortisol levels, which are known to indicate stress. Onyx’s addition to the team gives the Department of Public Safety a valuable tool to diffuse difficult situations and help students relax. 

Windsor and Onyx have attended 65 events in their first year of working together, including home sporting events, class visits, freshman orientation, and spending time at the university’s Wellness Center. They also participated in the National Night Out hosted by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, where they visited with nearly 1,000 people. Participating in these types of events helps the Department of Public Safety team strengthen its relationship with those on and off campus. 

Windsor said there have been many memorable moments while working with Onyx, but what he enjoys most, and what he has found to be incredibly rewarding, is watching how excited people get when they interact with her. 

“The response to Onyx has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s heartwarming to see how her presence brightens everyone’s day,” said Windsor. “As she spends more time on campus, I’m confident her impact will continue to grow,” he said. 

Windsor describes Onyx as being a fun-loving and playful dog whose personality has truly blossomed. 

“She’s a bit of a goofball and is always ready to make everyone smile,” said Windsor. “With a heart as big as her personality, she is all about spreading joy and silliness. At work, she’s a therapy superstar, lighting up everyone’s day with her contagious energy and endless love,” he said. 

When Onyx isn’t meeting new friends around campus, she can be found in the Department of Public Safety office, curled up in a cozy bed, enjoying treats and her favorite toys. At the end of the work day, she goes home with Windsor and has become an integral part of his family. She especially enjoys playing with the family’s other dog, Odin, sunbathing on the porch and playing with sticks in the yard.  

“Our department absolutely loves having Onyx at the university, and she has already proven to be a valuable resource,” said Windsor. “She has played a major role in our community engagement initiative, and we are excited to see the growth and potential of the program in the coming years,” he said. 

Friends can visit Onyx’s Instagram, K9_Onyx, to get involved and follow her journey around campus.




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