Written by: 
Jessica DeLeón
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik
Buddy with Jane Zink
Jane Zink, a biology and chemistry student, helps her service dog, Buddy, into his booties before they head into the lab.

Jane Zink and Buddy, her golden Labrador, always draw attention when they walk around campus.

"How often do you see a dog in boots?" Zink says.

The students are eager to touch him. She'll tell them that he's working -- and they understand. Buddy is a service animal who helps Zink, a biology and chemistry junior with Type 1 diabetes, when he senses her blood sugar is low.

Buddy is just one of several dogs who belong on the UNT campus.

Like Buddy, there are the service animals who help students with disabilities. Keegan is a member of the UNT Police Department and sniffs out potential explosives. More than two dozen dogs live in campus housing, either as emotional support animals for students or as companions to housing directors. And Buddy the Therapy Poodle in Counseling and Testing Services allow students time to heal from the stresses of life.

These dogs lend a lifeline to students for their physical and mental health. Zink, who wants to go to medical school and pursue a career in pathology, says Buddy keeps her safe and able to go places as she'll be alerted to any incidents of hypoglycemia.

"He means independence, safety and security," she says. "He's my best friend, a fuzzy best friend."

Service Lab Buddy
Buddy
Buddy keeps watch in his designated space as Jane Zink takes part in her laboratory.

Buddy has made himself at home on campus and even in the labs.

Zink's instructional lab supervisor and the instructor, Wijayantha Perera, wrote "For Buddy" in tape on the floor so Buddy could have his space and he helped find personal protection equipment -- including goggles -- for Buddy. (Buddy even boasts his own Instagram page.)

Zink is grateful for the accommodations since Buddy has been a lifesaver for her more times than she can count.

Before Zink came to UNT, she was living on her own and frequently experienced plummeting blood glucose levels that she was unaware of. Her mother had remote access to her Continuous Glucose Monitor alerted Emergency Medical Services, which frequently had to rush to Zink's aid.

Zink joined up with Buddy two years ago, about the same time she toured UNT and found the College of Science program was the right fit for her. Buddy is trained to alert Zink to low blood sugars by bouncing or pawing at her face. And he warns her about 30 minutes ahead, while her monitor can be as much as 30 minutes behind. Buddy also provides deep pressure therapy for Zink when she experiences a panic attack.

With Buddy, she's now able to pursue her studies and career.

"It's always very surreal," she says. "I'm still amazed by how he does it and how amazing he is."

Working Class Dog
Keegan
Keegan, a K-9 for the UNT Police department, works out with Corp. Nicholas Brauchle.

Keegan means business.

The K-9 yellow Labrador has been on campus since 2018 working with his partner, Corp. Nicholas Brauchle.

"He is a great dog," Brauchle says. "He is strong-willed, and he has a high work drive."

Keegan keeps the campus safe by detecting explosives on campus. Even though students are eager to touch him when they patrol the campus, Keegan is focused on his job.

"We do a lot of community relations, and he lets it happen. But most of the time, he's like, ‘Let's get this done with so I can get back to work,'" Brauchle says.

Keegan, who has not found any explosives on campus, also sniffs out suspicious packages for other police departments. Keegan and Brauchle put in 12-hour workdays, then he goes home with Brauchle and plays with Tommy, Brauchle's Labrador mix that his family has had since 2014.

Most students are excited to see Keegan, saying he reminds them of their pet at home.

"To see the faces of the students, they're happy," Brauchle says. "They could be in the middle of finals. They could be stressed out by life. It's like a few moments of peace."

Keeping Students Grounded
Minnie
Elizabeth Webb, community director at Rawlins Hall, hangs out with Minnie.

The students at Rawlins Hall get excited when they see Minnie, a long-haired Chihuahua mix, with Elizabeth Webb ('15), the hall's community director.

"She loves the residents. They love her," Webb says. "I joke, ‘I'm here too. You can say hi to me.'"

Minnie belongs to Webb, who oversees day-to-day operations and supervises the staff and lives in an apartment in the hall. Community directors are allowed to bring their dog to live with them.

And there are emotional support animals who live in residence halls for students who register with the Office of Disability Access for the accommodation. James Fairchild Jr., director of housing for the Department of Housing and Residence Life, estimates about 30 to 40 students who live on campus have comfort dogs and cats.

Webb adopted Minnie in 2018 after she was found abandoned at an old family farm in Sulphur Springs. While Webb was hesitant at first to bring her to the hall, Minnie has adjusted well.

Minnie gets stopped a lot during walks, especially by students who say they miss the dogs they left behind. And she keeps Webb balanced.

"She does help me cope because this job can be stressful," Webb says. "We see students at their best, we see them at their worst. She helps me feel grounded."

Ellie
Ellie chills out at Joe Greene Hall with community director Julie Townley.

For the residents of Joe Greene Hall, their dog is Ellie, 7, believed to be a terrier mix, who was rescued by Julie Townley in South Carolina and has traveled with her to her current position as community director.

In fact, when Townley was searching for jobs, she rejected applying to colleges that did not allow dogs. Ellie loves interacting with the students, who give her Chick-fil-A fries and other goodies. Resident assistants want to hang out with her after they've had a rough week.

Ellie mostly stays at Townley's apartment, but will take walks throughout the day on campus, with her favorites being Clark Park and the walkway between Crumley Hall and the Business Leadership Building. She'll often pick up half-eaten ice cream cones and other leftovers from Eagle Landing.

"She loves chasing squirrels on campus," Townley says. "She just loves being here. It's been a good thing."

Who’s a good dog?

Meet the dogs who keep University of North Texas students safe and happy. They include Buddy, a service animal who has his own space in one of our labs; Keegan, the canine who sniffs out explosives for the UNT Police department; and Minnie and Ellie, who serve as companions in our residence halls.
Watch a video about The Dogs at UNT.

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