• CPS-Josh&Scully_150

    Service and Assistance Dogs

    “Working with my canine partner Scully was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences both personally and professionally during my successful 23 year public safety and emergency services career,” said Josh Shanley, MS, MBA, EMT-P and fire sciences professor at Kaplan University.

    “When we started together 16 years ago, I always thought that my Australian shepherd and I would help others, which we most certainly did. For instance, she helped rescue two young girls lost out in the wilderness and probably saved their lives. However, I never thought that my canine partner would have such an impact on me personally. It was a perfect combination of public safety and my love for animals. Scully helped me learn to be more patient, tolerant, committed, and communicative. She taught me to be a better person.”

    Professor Shanley has taught more than 50 classes at Kaplan University and is a public safety program faculty member. He currently teaches Introduction to Fire Behavior as well as Community Risk Reduction and is assisting in the development of a new disaster recovery course to students pursing fire science degrees.

    As we celebrate service dogs and our College of Public Service students and faculty that work with K9s, we wanted to share the story about Professor Shanley’s life with his beloved service dog Scully.

    Professor Shanley grew up with a love for dogs, but didn’t have an early appreciation for higher education. “I can really relate to our Kaplan University students, and I have so much respect for them,” he said. “I earned my degrees later in life, like many of my students. I decided to put a priority on higher education. Going back to school costs money, takes time, and it is another demand in an already demanding life. I have such a deep appreciation for everyone who sticks with it and realizes their dreams.”

    Professor Shanley was realizing his own dreams and . He was a paramedic and progressed to become a firefighter as well. “I love my job, and I’m good at it, as I work well under stressful conditions,” he says. Professor Shanley was on duty when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, and he also worked at Ground Zero after 9/11. He witnessed how these operations unfolded—even though the public safety and emergency services teams were overwhelmed and understaffed, they joined together and accomplished some great feats in harrowing circumstances.

    “People ask me what drew me to the field of fire sciences,” he said. “I just thrive making order out of chaos.”

    Professor Shanley explains that in his field, there can be a lot of “down time” and that he used that time to learn and grow in his field. He earned his bachelor’s degree, a Master of Science in Emergency Management, and a Master of Business Administration, and is currently working toward a PhD in Instructional Design and Online Learning. Along the way he realized that another passion was to teach others, so he began a parallel and new career in higher education.

    Professor Shanley was also interested in expanding his field of expertise. He called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to learn about new opportunities, and learned FEMA had a need for canine partners. “It was a perfect fit, since I was thinking of getting a dog anyway,” he said. He adopted Scully, a female Australian shepherd. After years and thousands of hours of basic training with obedience and agility, Professor Shanley and Scully took on the challenges of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) with FEMA during a 4-year stint with the prestigious Massachusetts USAR Task Force (MATF-01). 

    “It was a lot of work, getting Scully trained and credentialed. We spent hours every day on our communications and her agility. We traveled across the country, participated in numerous classes and training and took exams. In addition to my full-time job, teaching, and time with my fiancé, I spent about 40 hours a week training Scully. Sometimes I would drive 1,000 miles in a month to various classes. I was like a canine soccer mom!”

    Scully was never deployed on a FEMA mission, although after they left the team she participated in several high profile local wilderness searches and made one notable find of two lost 10-year-old girls who spent a long, cold night in the woods.

    “I feel so blessed to have had Scully in my life for more than 16 years,” Professor Shanley said. “She was a great friend and a wonderful dog. We’ve been through a lot together, and she changed my life. She recently passed away and my fiancé and I miss her very much.”

    Professor Shanley now hopes to get involved with therapy dogs. He has been a member of the critical incidence team for Northampton, Massachusetts, and would eventually like to train dogs to help others deal with stress and PTSD.

    In addition, as he works toward earning his PhD, Professor Shanley hopes to continue to develop more classes for Kaplan University students who wish to embark on a new career.

    Back to Center for Public Service Stories Spotlight

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