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MSU DPPS introduces new comfort dog, River, to Spartan community

January 8, 2024

Kim Parviainen and River

EAST LANSING, Mich. --- The Michigan State University Department of Police and Public Safety (MSU DPPS) is excited to introduce its new comfort dog, River, to the Spartan community. River will work alongside Community Outreach Lieutenant Kim Parviainen and perform numerous duties including attending events on campus; supporting students, faculty, and staff; and addressing wellness needs within the Spartan community.

River was named after the Red Cedar River, which runs through the heart of Michigan State University’s campus. He will help bridge relationships and build connections between MSU DPPS and the Spartan community.

“Prior to being River’s handler, I was fortunate enough to be a handler for a patrol and explosive detection German Shepherd for our department,” said Parviainen. “My prior K9, Bane, served the department for almost eight years. Being a member of the K9 Unit with Bane was the greatest adventure of my career. On many occasions, Bane was a conversation starter while giving presentations or attending events on campus. So many people find comfort and joy in dogs! I can’t wait to pick up where Bane left off and introduce River to the Spartan community.”

River comes to MSU DPPS from the Paws with a Cause program based in Wayland, Michigan. The mission of Paws with a Cause is to “enhance the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities nationally through custom-trained Assistance Dogs” and to “increase awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog Teams through education and advocacy.”

Dogs from Paws with a Cause go through a lengthy training program before becoming certified, including being both foster and prison trained. After completion, the dogs return to Paws with a Cause for placement at approximately 14-18 months of age. Dogs can be placed with a client, hospital, school, police department, counseling center, and more.

In December 2023, River completed his training program and began working full-time with Lieutenant Parviainen. 

“River will be a great addition to the many assets our department offers,” said Parviainen. “River will be available to attend events on campus, assist our Detective Bureau with interviews, and be paws-itive support for our first responders internally here at MSU DPPS.”

“We are excited to introduce River to our Spartan community,” said Police Chief Chris Rozman. “Trained comfort dogs are proven to help with fostering dialogue between law enforcement and the community, supporting survivors during investigations, and decreasing anxiety in the workplace. River will be a great addition to our team, which prides itself every day in ensuring the safety of our campus.”

To follow along on River’s journey, you can follow him on Instagram at @msupolicetherapydogs. To request River’s presence at an event, email Lieutenant Kim Parviainen at

As always, MSU DPPS can be contacted any time at 517-355-2221. In an emergency, contact 911 – call if you can, text if you can’t.


Media Contact:  

Dana Whyte, Communications Manager and Spokesperson, Michigan State University Department of Police and Public Safety  

517-282-3711 |