CLEVELAND — For years, police departments have employed K9 officers to sniff out drugs, bombs and chase bad guys. But in the past few years, more departments are using emotional support dogs to help ease the stress of police work.
K9 Officer Moose is a 90 pound, 10-month-old German Shepherd still in training. Well, sort of.
"She pretty much knows what to do, we're just training me," says Detective Chris Porter, her new handler.
Yes, Moose is a girl, complete with pink trimmings on her service vest.
"Her primary job is to love," Porter says.
Porter works in the Cleveland Police Employee Assistance Unit helping officers deal with job stress. His new partner, a federally licensed PTSD service dog, can ride on a motorcycle, fly in a helicopter and be calm in the midst of a chaotic crime scene, ready to work.
"My unit is called out every time an officer has to use their firearm, so when we come out it would be great to have Moose come with me and bring that calm right out of the gate and bring some happiness right out of the gate so possibly they would be more apt to open up to me and have a conversation about how they're feeling," Porter says.
It's no small task these days.
"It's not even about having a thankless job, it's about having a job that somebody hates you for, that by putting on the badge, I'm immediately bad. So it's very important to strike first at this idea that nobody cares, and make sure that you feel as an officer that somebody's there for you and somebody supports you, even if it's a dog," Porter says.
Rick Seyler trained and donated Moose to Cleveland police. His Silver Bullet K9 Service Ministry also provided support dogs for Euclid and Richmond Heights police departments.
"If an officer is talking to a witness about a critical incident or another officer and they're reluctant to talk, if they start inadvertently petting that dog, they'll start to communicate, open up," Seyler says.
Studies document the physical and mental health benefits of dogs. They're great listeners who don't judge or criticize. They help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, lower blood pressure and boost mood.
"You can't put a price on a critical moment where someone's thinking of someone that was kind or some ray of sunshine or kindness. You can't put a price on it. I've seen it, I know it, I've experienced it. I grew up with it and the Silver Bullet K9 Service Ministry, is gonna give this back," Seyler says.
Moose spent the day meeting her future co-workers, getting scratches and lots of cookies. She tried on her new dress vest that she'll wear for important events, too. In a few weeks, she'll move in with Porter and be officially sworn in to her new job. She'll also be busy hitting the Cleveland street beat and bringing smiles to residents.
The Cleveland Police Foundation will provide the funds for Moose's continued care, veterinary bills and other incidentals. If you'd care to donate to support Moose's work, just visit ClevelandPoliceFoundation.org They also take care of CPD's horse mounted unit and other police charitable programs as well.
Editor's Note: The video above is from an unrelated story on baby formula published on May 31, 2022.