Campus Life

The K-9 Unit continues working hard, even out of public view

With Stockton’s return to remote learning, the campus continues to feel ever-changing. Though a few stable entities on campus do remain, like the presence of the Stockton Police Force and their K-9 Unit. While packing up to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday, or over the past two months, one may have run into Lieutenant Tracy Stuart and Stockton’s two canines: 11-year-old chocolate labrador Hemi, and four-year-old golden retriever Freya. 

Lt. Stuart and Hemi
Image provided by Lt. Stuart

Lt. Stuart and Hemi have been partners since the start of Stockton’s canine unit—both completing the Canine Academy in July of 2011. During his continued work on the police force, Hemi has earned many awards and continues to keep up with his younger counterpart. That being newcomer Freya, who completed the 10-week academy with Stuart back in July of 2020.

Since Stuart has been through this process before, one may think this was a refresher to her and a great way for Freya to get the skills needed to become Stockton’s second explosive sniffing dog. However, the current pandemic has thrown just as much of a monkey wrench in the academy’s plans. The duo planned to enter the academy earlier this year but could not attend in the summer months.

Lt. Stuart and Freya
Image provided by Lt. Stuart

Repeating a course a second time, Stuart said that while it was a different experience with each dog, she found it interesting to have some foresight already into the course. Of course, with the pandemic came major restrictions and a change of methodology applied at the academy. Even with the need for face masks, social distancing, and sanitation between drills, Stuart found a new perspective with Freya’s training.

She was able to help guide those in her position nine years ago and gain even more knowledge into training the dogs for scent detection. Freya grew from the experiences as well and emerged fully certified to serve the Stockton community.

Lt. Stuart poses with Freya on the Seaside Heights Pier during the NJSP Academy.
Photo provided by Lt. Stuart

Now with two well-trained canine dogs and a great handler at Stockton, the community can rest easy at times, knowing that when in-person events and other gatherings return to campus, there will be one or two paws of approval on it. That approval comes from two dogs continually practicing with Stuart remained in top form thanks to her regimen with them. Even during the early stages of the pandemic, the dogs trained, all while staying socially distant.

Both Hemi and Freya have a high affinity for people and enjoy students’ company, though getting closer than six feet to them is still hard. Just like humans, dogs have a chance of both catching and spreading COVID-19, so Stuart has been doing her best to ensure that both dogs do their duty outside of the public eye to ensure everyone’s safety. But even if one can or cannot see them, the K-9 Unit is here to support the community and looks forward to engaging with members of the community once the time is right.

Categories: Campus Life