UMass Boston

UMass Boston Swears in Beacon as First Comfort K-9 on Campus

11/27/2023| Crystal Valencia

Dozens of students came out to show their support and give belly rubs to the newest member of the UMass Boston Police Department, as a swearing in ceremony for Beacon was held with campus leaders and Beacon's fellow public safety colleagues.

“Raise your right paw.”

The UMass Boston Police Department welcomed its new four-legged, furry recruit—a six-month-old Black Labrador puppy aptly named Beacon—with a swearing in ceremony on November 14, where he received his own police badge.

Beacon is the university’s first-ever comfort K-9, and since arriving in July, he has made a significant impact, bringing smiles to students’ faces, helping people to destress, and aiding the department in better responding to areas of victim’s advocacy, mental health, and trauma.

Beacon is assigned to Officer Mark Cikacz, a nine-year veteran of the UMass Boston Police Department. Cikacz said there has been an exceedingly positive response from students, staff, and faculty on campus.

“Whether it is a random sighting of Beacon or a scheduled visit, the community has expressed their love of him,” Cikacz said. “We have been able to achieve new and lasting friendships with many active students and staff that we have been unable to in recent years.”

As part of their daily routine, Beacon and Cikacz patrol the campus, working to forge new relationships within the community while also being ready to respond to any mental health crisis that could arise.

“We are working together with the Counseling Center to set up a program during finals week to hold reserved one-on-one meetings with students struggling with the pressures of their academics,” Cikacz said.

Chancellor pats Beacon during swearing in ceremony

Dozens of students and staff attended Beacon’s swearing in ceremony, which featured remarks from Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Karen Ferrer-Muñiz, with Interim Chief of Police Ken Sprague delivering the comfort K-9 oath.

Computer Science major Manjot More was one of the dozens of students who came out to watch Beacon get sworn in, even gifting him with a dog toy.

“I made sure I woke up early for this, because I needed to come meet this dog,” he said, adding that bringing a comfort dog to campus was a great idea. “We all adore Beacon.”

Students pet Beacon

Beacon was donated to UMass Boston Police by Pacheco Kennels, a breeder based in Raynham, Massachusetts.

The comfort K-9 program is almost entirely funded by the generosity of the UMass Boston community.  For Beacon’s upcoming second year on campus, Chancellor Suárez-Orozco has pledged to provide financial support for Beacon’s operating expenses. This will enable Officer Cikacz and Beacon to focus on their mission of community service, outreaching, and programming.  Gifts to support Beacon’s work continue to be welcomed at    

Vice Chancellor Ferrer-Muñiz said Beacon is a great ally for first responders in interacting with the community in new ways that can promote wellness and safety.

“Beacon aims to reduce stress, aims to work with anxiety and build connections among every single one of us,” Ferrer-Muñiz said. “Beacon's tail-wagging presence is a very paw-sitive contribution to our commitment for a healthy community.”

Beacon recently completed four weeks of training. He lives with Cikacz, who reports that Beacon’s favorite treats are Full Moon Organic Beef Jerky, and his favorite toys are Dog Tuff which sells durable chew toys.

Student poses with Roger

Cikacz got the idea to bring a comfort dog on campus after seeing other dogs report for duty on campuses across the country, and the positive effect it has had on the community. Roger, Babson College’s community resource dog, and his handlers at Babson Public Safety even attended the UMB ceremony in a show of support.

Cikacz encourages the community to follow Beacon’s own Instagram account @k9beacon for updates.

UMass Boston Police pose with Beacon