A typical day for Mike LaPolice, housekeeper in the University of Rhode Island’s Peck Hall, has not changed much throughout his 25 years of working in the building. But in the year and a half since he adopted Ivy, a black and white husky with pale blue eyes, his work at URI has become much more meaningful.
Ivy only has eyes for her owner as she follows him around the residence hall, stopping to greet the engineering students who pause to play with her on their way through the building. Although she rarely barks, she occasionally groans softly when she sees a student that she recognizes.
“When I saw the pictures of Ivy, I just knew I had to get her,” LaPolice said.
He made the decision to adopt Ivy five months after the death of his first dog. Although he had not originally planned to get another dog so soon, he said that he knew Ivy was special.
“She genuinely cares about people and wants to make sure they’re okay,” LaPolice said.
After bringing Ivy to Peck as a puppy, LaPolice immediately noticed the impact she had on students.
“Nobody wanted her to leave,” he said. “They asked if I could keep bringing her in.”
According to law, in order for LaPolice to bring Ivy to work she would have to be a registered therapy dog. So, at only five months old, Ivy got her therapy dog certification from the National Service Animal Registry and has accompanied LaPolice to URI every day since.
As a therapy dog, Ivy’s job is to comfort people, help alleviate their stress and create a positive presence in their lives.
However, even after earning her certification, Ivy has received some negative attention from LaPolice’s superiors.
“As far as I know, it’s pretty much just HRL ‘higher-ups’ that have an issue with her being here, stating something along the lines of it not being professional,” said Tyler Inkley, a Peck Hall resident advisor.
Last year, to show their support for Ivy and LaPolice, Peck Hall residents signed a petition expressing their love for Ivy and their desire for her to be allowed in the residence hall. LaPolice is eager to show off the list of signatures, along with a handmade Christmas card filled with pictures of Ivy that several students made for him last year.
“If I had $5 for every time someone takes a picture of Ivy, I wouldn’t have to work here anymore,” LaPolice said.
Fortunately, he has not received a complaint about Ivy’s presence in Peck in over six months, and the general attitude toward her is overwhelmingly positive.
Andrew LeCampion, a Peck Hall resident, is one of many students that have benefitted from the therapy dog’s caring nature.
“In September, a relationship that I was in came to an end and hit me pretty hard with the feels,” he said. “Ivy jumped up on the couch and laid down next to me with her head on my chest because she could sense that I was upset.”
Students returning to the residence hall after a stressful day also take comfort in seeing Ivy’s wagging tail and cheerful demeanor.
“On a particularly tough day, Ivy wandered into my office and just put her head on my leg,” said Amanda Mercadante, another Peck Hall RA. “How could I possibly stay focused on such negativity in my life with that beautiful, loving dog looking right up at me?”
Peck Hall residents are not the only students who have noticed Ivy. According to student Yelena Randall, who now lives off campus in Bonnet Shores, students from other residence halls know all about Ivy and pass through Peck just to see her.
“She has become a staple of Peck Hall,” said Mercadante. “Students truly appreciate her presence on campus.”