POLICE Magazine

OCT 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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28 POLICE OCTOBER 2018 help with the conversa- tion," he says. "It's a great fit for community policing officers who are going to do this type of work anyway." It's important, he adds, to remember a comfort dog is a "tool," not something to attract attention. "It's a tool, just like any other police K-9, to help you do work you were going to do anyway," he says. "If I didn't have my dogs, I'd still be working in the community." COSTS OF A COMFORT DOG PROGRAM e Gordons donated the dogs and the cost of their care to the police depart- ment, so for Greenfield PD the program's expenses have been nominal. But typically, a program like this would entail pur- chasing a dog, which for a Saint Bernard is approxi- mately $2,000. Training the dog, which takes up to a year and runs from general obedience training all the way to therapy dog training, adds up to ap- proximately $600-1,000. en, there is the cost of about one hour a week of overtime for the handler to train the dog and the cost of the dog's food and veterinary care. "e biggest cost would be transporta- tion," he says. "You can't just throw a Saint Bernard in the back of a police cruiser. You have to kennel it just like you would with any other K-9 officer." Gordon states while there may be some upfront expenses for a department, he predicts donations will cover most ex- penses once the public is aware of the program and its benefits. He explains, "We had many people call in and offer us money for the program, but we weren't set up to receive any yet, so we had to turn them away. In the future, we will be ac- cepting donations to help us continue this work and pass the program on to the next officers." Ronnie Wendt is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. She has been writing about law enforcement for over 20 years. lot is not a good fit for a dog that is there to help people in a state of heightened anxiety. "ese dogs have to be able to help us calm vic- tims down so they focus their energies on recover- ing from tragedy," he says. "A Saint Bernard's calm de- meanor helps people with their anxiety." He notes that Saint Ber- nards were originally dis- patched to find and help people trapped in ava- lanches. Gordon says, "If they can help people in avalanches, they can help victims of crime, who are caught in an avalanche of anxiety. ey can bring their attention off some- thing bad and into some- thing good." Who will handle the dog is also a key consideration, says Gordon, who notes only he and his wife work Greenfield's dogs. "I'm a lieutenant; she's a bicycle officer. e dogs mainly stay with me, but she uses them for community po- licing and events. It really opens the door for her to communicate with people in a way they may not have communicated with her before," he says. Police K-9 handlers must be honest, courteous, respectful, dependable, and in good physical shape, but they also must have a genuine interest in being part of the comfort dog program. It's not about being a cop with a cool dog; it's about provid- ing comfort to victims, Gordon reminds. Greenfield PD requires handlers to have a minimum of one year with the depart- ment; adequate space at their home to house the dog; and a minimum of five years' prior experience working, training, and caring for dogs. "My wife and I have been working with dogs in this capacity for about 10 years, so we know what we're doing," he says. According to Gordon, the key to a pro- gram's success will be picking the right of- ficers. "You've got to have officers who are willing to work one-on-one with people, where the dog becomes another tool to simplifying t h e d u t y h o l s t e r made in the u.s.a. X-CALIBUR TM The X-Calibur works with your body's natural mechanics, incorporating the Science of Human Factors to produce a secure, fast, and intuitive duty holster. p o i n t b l a n k e n t e r p r i s e s . c o m A comfort dog needs to love attention from people and be physically and emotionally calm. PHOTOS: GREENFIELD (MA) PD CANINES BRING COMFORT TO VICTIMS

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