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Canine Crazy and Data Driven

Danielle Holland’s internship was the perfect balance of work and play: the senior criminology major found a way to incorporate her love for canines while getting hands-on experience with police work.

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia—whose catchphrase is “The sniff that saves lives”—trains puppies in medical, crime, and search and rescue detection. Once fully prepared, dogs can sniff out disease, locate someone trapped in the aftermath of a disaster, or even identify a hidden explosive.

As an intern, Holland had the chance to play with the dogs during their downtime, and was often assigned to stretch them in an aspect of training called Fit to Work.

“Just like human athletes stretch, the working dogs need to stretch and stay flexible to get them ready for their eventual jobs,” she explains.

But the internship wasn’t all puppy play. She spent much of her time grappling with data, taking video, and recording information from the training sessions. Holland, who currently works as a data abstractor for the New Jersey Violent Death Reporting System under the state Department of Health, credits much of her expertise in data wrangling to her time spent at Penn Vet.

“The Working Dog Center helped me to appreciate the importance of data collection and uploading,” she says.

Holland took a criminology class in high school and has stuck with it ever since. For her, it’s not just something to study in college—it’s relevant to everyday life.

“It’s important to understand how it works, because it certainly isn’t a perfect system,” she says. “But we need to understand it before we can enter the field and enact change,” she says.

Holland certainly hopes to keep working in this field for years to come. After graduation, she will continue to work as a data abstractor, with the possibility of returning to Penn Vet one day. For now, though, she is focusing on her last semester of college and volunteering at her local animal shelter to stay involved with animal work.

“What I’ll be doing in 10 years, I couldn’t tell you,” she says. “I’m just going to continue to work hard.”

—Catherine Bialkowski ’18

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