They’re ready to protect, serve and comfort.
On Aug. 4 the NYPD headquarters played host to the graduation ceremony of two “paw-some” officers who will look to aid with the mental health of both police officials and members of the public alike.
Piper and Jenny are two Labrador Retrievers who, along with their human partners Detectives Ronald Thomas and Efrain Hernandez respectively, make up the NYPD’s first Dog Therapy unit. The goal of the new initiative is to provide mental health services to cops in crisis and civilians who have undergone trauma.
The NYPD hopes the canines can reduce stigma around feelings of post-traumatic stress and even help comfort those undergoing suicidal thoughts after occupational hazards such as gun violence.
The dogs, who were already proving “pup-ular” with friendly colleagues as they waited to receive their shields on Wednesday afternoon, were specifically trained to help comfort and ease those dealing with sensitive issues. Both the two and four-legged officers underwent stringent training.
Supervised by Puppies Behind Bars — an organization that employs prisoners to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders — the canines were tutored alongside handlers in prisons with the help of incarcerated individuals. This not only created a meaningful connection between officers and prisoners during the rehabilitation process, but it also served to effectively prepare the dogs for the work to come.
“The training was intense and that is coming from someone who has been to the New York City Police Academy. We started at five in the morning and we didn’t really get into bed until about 10 at night,” Detective Thomas told amNewYork Metro. “We are hoping these dogs bridge the gap between us and the members of the department, I mean police officers can be reluctant to come forward and who doesn’t love a Labrador?”
The Department’s top cops pulled out all the stops at One Police Plaza to welcome the K-9s to the team. A color guard presented arms and First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker gave a speech praising their important work caring for men and women grappling with hairy situations. The ceremony was made even more significant since not every dog in the program was able to bite the brass bone. Several would-be police pups did not make the cut, which officers say underscore the incredible abilities of the duo.
As the dogs and their handlers were presented with their shields, officially declaring them detectives, the labs raised their paws for a respectful salute.