Protect, Serve, and Comfort: UNCG Police Dogs on Duty

Posted on February 10, 2023

Woman smiles as a dog jumps on her

When you see a smiling dog wagging its tail, you usually also smile or maybe even give them a hug. At UNCG, the dog will hug you right back.

Odin, UNCG Police’s two-year-old Belgian Tervuren comfort dog, helps students through the stressors of college. 

“Other law enforcement agencies have found tremendous success through comfort dogs, especially with outreach to the community and also helping those in need that are going through stressful times,” says Officer Zachary Lynch, a community resource officer and Odin’s handler. 

A Comfort Canine

Odin is trained to respond to a “hug” command. You can simply say “hug” while tapping your chest and he will put his front paws on you.

With his big, fluffy coat, pointy nose and “Best Friend” harness, Odin is all about getting attention. Officer Lynch walks Odin around the university so students have the chance to meet him. 

“A lot of people love dogs when they’re stressed, especially one as goofy as Odin,” Lynch says 

While his job may seem easy, Odin went through an eight-week training program to learn general obedience and also a few important signals that help him comfort on command. Pat your chest and say “hug” and he will place his front paws on you. 

“Students really love interacting with him,” Lynch says. “And plus, once you get a hug from Odin, that’s the icing on the cake.”

Odin is meant to put a smile on students’ faces, but he also gives UNCG Police an opportunity to interact with the campus community and provide resources if needed. 

“He can help them with their day or if they are missing home, overloaded with assignments and work, or maybe just having a stressful time in general,” says Lynch. 

Down to Business

Odin may be all about fun and furry comfort, but his counterpart Felix has to get down to business. 

Felix is a dual-purpose patrol dog that helps UNCG Police and the entire community with a variety of safety needs.

“His job can be busy at times,” says Officer Maddie Austin, Felix’s handler. “We try to stay on our toes and be proactive as much as we can.”

At two years old, Felix can help with searches, whether it be sniffing out an item someone might try to hide in a criminal act, or helping a student find an item they misplaced. He can also help track down people and is trained to find narcotics.

“UNCG is our priority, but we don’t hesitate to help the city or the nearby surrounding area if we need to,” Austin says. “We have a lot of students, faculty, and staff that live right in this general area so we’re happy to help wherever we can or whoever needs us.”

The Belgian Malinois German-Shepherd went through, and continues to go through, extensive training. After being chosen by the department, Felix was trained for several months without his handler. Then, Officer Austin went to Tennessee for about four months to train with Felix. Every month, Felix is required to go through a minimum of 16 hours of training.  

While students may see Felix when something is wrong, he can also be around just to prevent things from happening.

“Just his presence alone can deter crime without even seeing them. So he’s a great resource,” Austin says.

Both Odin and Felix, while they have different jobs, are providing important services for the campus community – serve, protect, and comfort. 

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Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications


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