Finance and Operations; OUR Clemson

Fire & EMS establishes K-9 program, welcomes first therapy canine


Black and white Bernedoodle dog sitting in front of a Clemson University fire engine outside of the fire station
Penrose, known as Penny, will support the mental health and well-being of the department's firefighters and enhance its community engagement efforts.
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The Clemson University Fire & EMS Department has established a K-9 program to support the mental health and well-being of the department’s firefighters and enhance its community engagement efforts and education programs.

CUFD is excited to announce the addition of its first therapy canine, Penrose, also known as Penny, a six-month-old Bernedoodle. The name Penrose was chosen in honor of Captain A.W. Penrose, the captain of the first fire engine when the fire department was established at Clemson College in 1927.

“I think Penny is going to add a completely different dimension to our team and department,” CUFD Chief Rick Cramer said. “My hope is that she will brighten the firefighters’ day when they see her and potentially help to lower their blood pressure on stressful days. I am also excited to get her through all of the necessary training so that we can take her out into the community to visit some of our citizens.

“We hope to see her in our schools and daycare centers as well as in some of our local assisted living facilities. The hope is that she will be able to brighten their day and provide comfort when she visits. Of course, she is just a puppy now and still has a lot of training to get under her belt, but we are excited about the possibility she will present in the future.”

CUFD’s newest member has been adopted by Lt. Jim Thackston and Sgt. Jennifer Thackston, who will serve as Penny’s handlers. Penny’s primary responsibility is to support fire department personnel with stress reduction and enhance their overall well-being. She will also enhance community engagement and educational activities, once she completes her training, and join firefighters as they respond to critical calls throughout the city to provide comfort and support to those that need it.

Penny was donated to the department by Becca Willis, owner of Double U Doodles in Liberty, S.C. Their mission is to better the lives of humans through their dogs. Double U Doodles also donated a puppy to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year.

Penny begins her training in early August to work toward an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen certification. To achieve the certification, Penny will be tested in 10 different areas including accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, walking through a crowd, sitting and down on cue, staying in place, coming when called, reactions to distractions and supervised separation.

Once she receives the Canine Good Citizen certification, Penny will continue her training as a therapy dog.

Chief Rick Cramer and Penny