Mass. state police get first comfort K-9
The K-9 is assigned to the Employees Assistance Unit, which works with the department's PTSD healing process for LEOs
MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.
FRAMINGHAM. Mass. — After a Springfield police officer was shot in the line of duty last week, state police brought in backup to bring a little peace of mind to his fellow officers: a 4-month-old English black Labrador.
Luna is the agency's first comfort dog.
"She was there as a calming effect for the officers and actually helped officers open up about the incident," said Trooper Chad Tata, Luna's handler. "She is going to be a great asset for not only our department but others around the commonwealth."
As a young pup, Luna is being trained for obedience and behavior. Once a year old, she'll go through training to become certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national organization.
"Just the touch of a dog is supposed to calm you down and lower blood pressure," Tata said. "It puts a calming effect on your brain. That's why more and more police departments, hospitals and nursing homes are using comfort dogs."
On April 14, Springfield police responded to a fight outside a nightclub where Officer Edwin Irizarry, a 20-year veteran, was shot twice in the arm and survived. Luna helped with comforting the other officers.
In Franklin, police added a comfort dog, a golden retriever named Ben Franklin to the force.
Tata visited Donut and Clarence, two Saint Bernard comfort dogs with the Greenfield Police Department before getting Luna.
"Clarence has been used utilized around the country including major incidents such as Newtown and the Las Vegas shooting," he said.
Luna is assigned to the state police's Employee Assistance Unit, which works with first responders, police and firefighters as part of the department's post-traumatic stress decompression/healing process, according to state police.
Boonefield Labradors, run by David and Peggi Brogan in Rindge, New Hampshire, donated Luna to the department. State police officials became aware of the breeders after visiting Lunenburg police's comfort dog, Hank, a chocolate lab who is Luna's uncle.
"Their dogs are known for their good demeanor and their great behavior and temperament, Tata said. "It is a proven fact that a lot of people use comfort dogs now instead on being on medication."
Lt. James Massari, the assistance unit commander, said Luna will help officers in the short term while other resources become available.
"As police officers we are subjected to many different kinds of traumatic events such as fatal car crashes, line-of-duty deaths the investigation of homicides and unattended deaths and mass casualty incidents such as the Boston bombing," he said.
Col. Kerry Gilpin called Luna the newest member of the "MSP family."
"She is a welcome addition to our fundamental mission — to help people in need," Gilpin said. "We know all too well the devastating effects of traumatic stress, and we are fortunate to have Luna available to first responders, their family members, and other victims in need of support."
Eventually, Luna, who lives with Tata and his family, will also bring comfort to victims of large scale incidents once certified.
"She'll be available to help in any way she can," Tata said.
©2019 MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.