Towson University has a new four-legged friend on campus: A chocolate Labrador retriever puppy named Bruno who will work as a comfort dog with the university’s police department.

Bruno will “offer emotional support and companionship as part of TU’s community-oriented approach to public safety,” the university said in a news release.

The dog’s handler, Jafar Taru, is a corporal with the Towson University Police Department. He has another dog at home, a bichon. The new puppy is the first one Taru has worked with professionally, though.

“He’s precious. He’s definitely precious,” Taru said in an interview.

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Towson University's yet-unnamed comfort dog, a young chocolate Labrador retriever walks with his handler, Cpl. Jafar Taru.
Towson University’s comfort dog, a young chocolate Labrador retriever, walks with his handler, Cpl. Jafar Taru. The university announced on Jan. 31 the dog will be named Bruno. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University)

The pooch will work as a comfort dog. That means Bruno, along with Taru, will be around to reduce stress, boost morale and generally provide a calming presence on the Towson University campus. It’s possible the dog could be present during interviews with victims of crime, too, to help them feel comfortable while talking with police.

The 12-week-old puppy is not trained like a traditional police dog, so he will not be used to sniff out illegal drugs, for example. The pup’s entire purpose is to be a cuddly, calming presence for the university community.

“We want to make sure that everybody is doing well. This is kind of an experiment, hopefully we’re looking forward to adding another dog,” Taru said.

Brian DeFilippis, the school’s vice president for university advancement, said that the purchase of the dog and its continued care have been entirely funded through donations. More than 100 people donated to the cause during the university’s annual fundraising drive in 2023.

He said the university surpassed its $15,000 fundraising goal for the comfort dog. DeFilippis and his family made a personal contribution of $2,500 to the campaign, too.

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“We were very happy to do it,” he said.

The university opened up voting on its Instagram stories for the dog’s name.

The options were Ty, “to recognize all the past and present Tigers who helped bring our comfort dog to campus”; Chap, in honor of the university’s first dean of minority affairs, Julius Chapman; Goldie, to recognize one of TU’s colors and in “remembrance of the beloved family dog of [a] key canine comfort companion” donor; and Bruno, a name option provided by Taru.

The university announced the dog’s name as Bruno in an Instagram Reel posted just after 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Towson University’s comfort dog, a young chocolate Labrador retriever. The university announced on Jan. 31 the pooch will be called Bruno. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University)

The name Bruno was suggested to Taru by his daughter, he said. And yes, it was inspired by the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s “Encanto.”

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DeFilippis is the “key” donor the university mentioned. He said Goldie was the first dog he and his now-wife adopted, before they were married.

“Goldie was a mutt in every sense of the word,” DeFilippis said. “She was a very sweet, loving dog.”

DeFilippis got to meet the new companion dog last week. He called the new pup adorable and said that it’s already a joy — and that the dog has already helped him.

“I happened to not be having the best day [when I met the dog]. I knelt down and got some nice licks on the face,” DeFilippis said. “All of my worries and stress melted away.

“The love of a dog is really special.”

Cody Boteler a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others. 

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