EXETER, N.H. — There’s a new member of the Exeter Police Department hoping to bridge the connection between officers and the community. This new role is something departments all over the country have been looking into as they work with more behavioral health calls.
The department introduced their new comfort dog at this week’s National Night Out, a laid-back way for officers and community members to connect.
"Still working on a name right now," Detective Bailey Teixeira said. "We are open to suggestions, though."
Teixeira will be the handler for the 4-month-old chocolate Lab. After months of training, the so-far nameless pup will follow her on calls, into schools and hospitals, and be an extension of the work Teixeira does.
"The purpose of the comfort dog is to break down the barriers between the public and police. Victims of a sexual assault — whether it’s a juvenile or an adult — and then any juvenile victim of any crime, the dog would be there to kind of support the kid, support the victim, and make sure that they’re comfortable talking to me about what happened," Teixeira said.
The detective often works with juveniles who've been through horrific crimes. The comfort dog can help ease tension in difficult situations.
Comfort dogs are something more police departments have looked into, but this is Exeter’s very first, Hero Pups Founder Laura Barker said. No pressure for this pup born for the job.
"Hero Pups works with a lot of shelter and rescue dogs, and in this case we took the mom in when she was pregnant, and she gave birth with us. And we were able to start working with the puppies as soon as they were born," Barker said.
Laura Barker founded Hero Pups, which typically trains service dogs for veterans. She said sometimes good dogs just aren’t meant for that level of service, but they’re great in other roles, like this pup who is already making friends with the children in her new community.
"We want a dog who can engage with people but be obedient and work because she’s going to have a very important role going to schools and getting a lot of miles on her. So, she has to really want to do the work," Barker said.
Police Chief Stephan Poulin agreed the new pup will be an extension of the work they do with children.
"They play with the dog a little bit, get to be with the dog, and at the same time, Teixeira can do her job and maybe ask those difficult questions," Poulin said.
Exeter’s comfort dog will also be available to officers who’ve had difficult calls. No tax dollars will fund her training. That money will come through fundraising, but Poulin said taxpayers will certainly benefit.
Keep an eye on the Exeter Police Department's Facebook page for updates on those fundraisers or to share an idea for a name for their new comfort dog.