POLICE Magazine

OCT 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1037204

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Page 26 of 80

"It was two to three days after the shooting, and the community was still recovering, as were the first responders," Gordon recalls. "e dogs brought joy to these people. Even if it was only for five minutes, it gave them something to smile about and took their thoughts off this hor- rific incident." Clarence's presence also helped the first responders on scene. "In one case, there was an officer typing his report and petting the dog at the same time," he recalls. "e dog was helping him type things in his report that he never wanted to have to record. e dog helped him through that." Gordon and his wife, also a police offi- 24 POLICE OCTOBER 2018 IT'S SAID that in every cloud lies a silver lining. e Green- field (MA) Police Department has found its silver lining in a Comfort Dog program. For this program came about after a nega- tive incident darkened an officer's life, and this officer turned his own life storm into a shining outcome. In 2011, when Greenfield Lt. William Gordon began suffering from Post-trau- matic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a work- related incident, he started receiving treatment from On-Site Academy, a West- minster, MA, nonprofit association serv- ing emergency service workers suffering from job-related stress. As Gordon navigated through treat- ment, he kept hearing he needed to "find things that brought him joy." He says, "My dogs were what brought me joy." To foster his own healing, Gordon be- gan training his dog, Clarence, a lumber- ing Saint Bernard full of personality and affection, to be a service dog. He began bringing his dog with him everywhere— even to treatment, and he quickly learned Clarence wasn't only aiding in his recov- ery, he was helping others with theirs. He adds, "I was recovering quite nicely from PTSD and needed the dog less and less, but I noticed the more I brought him around, the happier the people who were also getting treatment began to be." Word got around about Gordon's ef- forts, and this led to outreach from a priest, who suggested he bring Clarence to a rehab section formed after the Sandy Hook mass shooting, where 20 children and six adults lost their lives. This type of K-9 program is not about being a cop with a cool dog; it's about providing comfort to victims. cer, eventually began working their dogs with a newly formed nonprofit called K9 First Responders of Milford, Connecticut, which was launched after Sandy Hook to help individuals in crisis. is partnership led to Clarence and Gordon aiding victims after the Boston Marathon bombing, helping first re- sponders after the mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Ve- gas, and assisting EMTs who responded to the Parkland, FL, school shooting. "As we responded to these things, we kept in touch with the chief and he really liked how the dogs were being used to help people with anxiety during stress- ful situations," he says. "e chief asked me to bring this to our department to help children who were victims of crimes and anxious about talking to police." In June, Greenfield PD became one of the first police departments in the nation to start a comfort dog program. Front and center of this new program are two Saint Bernards, Clarence and Donut. Clarence is the older, veteran comfort dog, who is one year shy of retirement, while Donut is just a few months old. Gordon says Donut will take over as the department's main comfort dog next year—after Clarence trains him. HOW COMFORT DOGS ARE USED According to Greenfield PD's Comfort Dog Policy, the function of the comfort dog is to "provide interaction during in- vestigations involving children or adults to reduce anxiety and increase commu- nication between the adult or child vic- PHOTO: GREENFIELD (MA) PD Adding a comfort dog program has given the Greenfield (MA) Police Department a new way to help people in crisis. CANINES BRING COMFORT TO VICTIMS RONNIE L. WENDT

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