HUDSON — The Hudson Police Department introduced its newest employee Thursday, whose job will be to bring ease and comfort to trauma victims among both the police and civilians in exchange for a good scratch behind her ear.
The 14-week-old female yellow lab mix will be trained over the next 10 to 12 months, but in the meantime, the department is looking to the public to help name its first-ever comfort K9 with a Facebook poll.
Hero Pups trainer Laura Barker said the puppy, a rescue from Pennsylvania, was selected by how well she responds to stressful situations, her overall health and her temperament.
“The most important thing is the temperament,” Barker said. “She’s pretty unfazed by most things, which is why she’s a great fit.”
Chief William Avery said middle school resource officer Jason Downy will be the dog’s primary handler, and other officers will have an opportunity to apply to fill a couple back-up handler positions.
“The officers will be trained on how to work with her,” Barker said.
The department is turning to the public to select a name for their newest employee. A Facebook poll posted on Thursday afternoon gave three options to be voted on by selecting certain reaction emojis; thumbs up for Honor, heart for Haven and wow face for Bella.
As of press time, Haven was in the lead with about 145 out of 290 votes.
One of the options originally in the running was Echo, but it was removed after Barker said the dog will be trained to greet a specific person by responding to the order, “Say hello,” so she said it would be best not to name her anything with a hard “oh” sound at the end.
Avery said the department began its regular K9 unit around 1996, and they currently have one police dog on the roster. Getting a comfort dog for the department was a priority for him since he first learned about it about two or three years ago, and started the process soon after stepping in as chief in February.
The cost for the training is under $5,000, but Avery said it will not cost the taxpayers anything. The idea is to open it up to public fundraising after presenting the plan to the town’s board of selectmen, and they already have some donors lined up.
Avery asked Downy to take point on the initiative not only because he’s been the middle school SRO for the past four years but because he is also the head of the critical incident stress management (CIMS) team, which provides resources and to officers and staff who are exposed to traumatic incidents.
“I think it kind of ties in really well with the stress management,” Downy said.
Avery said there were probably eight incidents the department handled over the past three weeks where employees or members of the public were exposed to something that they could have used a comfort dog
Even dispatchers can be traumatized on the job. Avery said a few years ago, a person who called into 911 had shot and killed himself while on the line with a dispatcher.
Barker said there have been studies that have shown physiological changes in the body when a person pets a dog. Not only can it provide therapy for people who need it, Barker said its presence can lower barriers and get people to engage with investigators that otherwise wouldn’t.
Barker said the maintenance expenses for a comfort dog costs less than that of a regular police K9.Avery said the dog’s final name selection will be announced Monday.