Student Newspaper Story Leads to Therapy Dog’s Removal from U. of Rhode Island Residence Hall
A feel-good report in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper about a longtime housekeeper and his beloved therapy dog has led to the dog’s removal from campus. Warning: Canine lovers may be saddened or enraged at this tale’s sequence of events.
First, the dog had his day. The Good 5 Cent Cigar at URI ran a piece this past Thursday focused on the young black and white Husky, named Ivy. In recent months, Ivy has become a high-profile, popular part of a campus residence hall. She is brought to the dorm each morning by her owner and URI janitor Mike LaPolice. Along with pale blue eyes, Ivy boasts a nationally-recognized therapy dog certification and, according to LaPolice, “she genuinely cares about people and wants to make sure they’re OK.”
Officials in URI’s Department of Housing and Residential Life (HRL) previously expressed concerns about the pup’s presence on campus, but they had been silent for the past six months or so. In the meantime, Ivy has been busy posing for pictures with excited students, accepting holiday greeting cards and even healing broken hearts.
In respect to the latter, a URI student told Cigar news reporter Eliza Radeka, “In September, a relationship that I was in came to an end and hit me pretty hard with the feels. 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.”
Cut to the present. Some individuals are now upset with HRL. Almost immediately after the Cigar’s Ivy piece was published, residence life staffers swooped in, demanding LaPolice take the dog home immediately and never bring her back to campus. It appears the Husky’s sudden burst of publicity renewed the department’s removal efforts.
As Cigar editor-in-chief Allison Farrelly tells me, “I was in class when I received a text that Mike LaPolice was in our office with Ivy, requesting extra copies of the paper so he could share. I heard glowing accounts from many of my staff members who saw Mike exclaiming over how great the article was and how touched he was. My heart sank when the texts changed to, ‘Ivy’s getting kicked off campus, HRL is mad about the article.'”
LaPolice explained to Radeka in a follow-up piece: “Nobody will tell me who has a problem with Ivy. All of the HRL staff that I’ve talked to keep referring to some person who doesn’t like her being here, but I don’t know who that is.”
In the exclusive Q&A below, Farrelly shares more about her reaction to what she calls “Ivy’s expulsion” and discusses whether she is having any second thoughts about running the piece — given its surprisingly dog-unfriendly fallout.
What do you think about the school’s reaction to the article?
Of course I’m shocked and saddened that Ivy was sent home as a result of our article, but I’m trying to take the high road and not place blame on the school right now because the decision to remove the dog was made singularly by the Department of Housing and Residential Life (HRL). After we printed the first article, my staff and I had been approached by faculty and staff from all different areas of campus who liked the article and knew Ivy, and they were as shocked as we were to learn the outcome: Ivy’s expulsion, for lack of a better word.
Because HRL would not comment before we printed, I don’t know their side of it, and so HRL is looking a lot like the bad guy to me, my staff and the university community. It’s tough in instances like these to not let your emotions be blinded by a kind janitor and a cute Husky puppy, and to remind yourself that there is another side to the story. It took me a few deep breaths to get here, but I’m trying to be a good journalist, not a dog lover, and not to get too emotionally invested until HRL will comment. Hopefully they have a good reason for removing her, but at this time I’m definitely having difficulty seeing what that would be.
“It’s tough in instances like these to not let your emotions be blinded by a kind janitor and a cute Husky puppy, and to remind yourself that there is another side to the story. It took me a few deep breaths to get here, but I’m trying to be a good journalist, not a dog lover, and not to get too emotionally invested.”
Do you have any regrets about publishing the piece?
I’ll regret running the piece if nothing comes from this situation. My hope is that our community will use the articles as a platform to communicate and instigate change, but I genuinely don’t know if that is possible. I hope so, because my staff and I are shocked and heartbroken. Many of them know and love Ivy.
I’m trying not to regret running this piece, because we never could have anticipated this outcome. I feel sick about it though, that we could have played a hand in negatively impacting not just this man’s life, but the lives of all the students Ivy touched. It still doesn’t make sense to me that HRL could have reacted so strongly to our article, but I don’t feel defeated yet because I don’t think we’ve done everything we can to right this. I told my staff this, but I think there is a good chance if the student body gets behind our reporting, we can right this.
Currently, all we can do is keep writing objectively about what happened, sharing the stories on social media and giving voice to the people impacted. Until we know all the details of what happened, I’m trying to lead by example and not project emotions. But I’m human, and I’m confused and sad.