At the Public Safety Subcommittee meeting on November 22, 2022, Officer Colleen Adams of the Sanford Police Department’s Mental Health Unit introduced the SPD’s new comfort canine, six-month-old Winston. (The name Captain Smoochy was also considered.) She said police and dispatch personnel are at a higher risk of mental health issues due to the number of critical incidents they deal with. Once Winston is fully trained and certified as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) through the American Kennel Club, he could be utilized in public as a comfort and aid during traumatic events, or in interactions with children, as well as being a stress reliever for the Department.
The CGC certification is awarded after testing by an AKC-approved evaluator. To be certified as a CGC, a dog must be able to:
- Calmly allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation
- Sit politely for petting without shyness or resentment
- Welcome grooming and examination by a stranger such as a veterinarian or groomer
- Walk loosely on a leash, being attentive and responsive to the handler
- Walk through a crowd without shyness, resentment or over-exuberance
- Sit, lie down and stay as directed by the handler
- Come when called
- Behave politely around other dogs
- Remain confident when faced with common distracting situations, such as a nearby jogger or bicycle rider
- Maintain its training and good manners when separated from the handler for a few minutes
The CGC certification is required as a prerequisite by some therapy dog organizations.
Winston is a mixed breed dog who was surrendered to the SPD. The Sanford Police Association adopted him after everyone at SPD fell in love with him. Once they saw how calm and tranquil he was, even as a puppy, the immediate thought was that he could become a comfort or therapy dog for the officers and community.
He goes home with Officer Adam Watson at night. Ofc. Watson said there are approximately 18 canine comfort dogs currently being used by New Hampshire Police Departments, and the idea is beginning to catch on in Maine as well. The York PD is also getting a dog.
Dispatcher Gabrielle Saucier, who previously worked as a dog trainer, is in charge of Winston’s training. She is working with him on basic obedience now, then he will move on to the CGC training.
The Sanford Police Association has sponsored Winston and paid all of his vet bills. To date he has not cost the City anything. Police Chief Craig Andersen said the hope is that once his certification is complete and he is working with the public, Winston’s expenses will become part of the Department’s regular budget.
Ofc. Adams reports that Winston is “a very, very good boy.” Chief Andersen added that rules have had to be put in place to prevent SPD personnel from dispensing too many dog treats.
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