New therapy dog comforts police officers, those in crisis situations

Hays

A new member of the San Marcos Police Department is bringing comfort to officers and those with a mental illness. His name is Sheldon Lee Cooper, and he’s a Border Collie mix.

Sheldon recently finished training and is assisting officers on calls for service by attempting to decrease anxiety and stress that people in crisis may be experiencing.

“He’s already going out on calls. The first one was a female’s boyfriend had attempted suicide by overdose,” said Sheldon’s handler, Officer Joyce Bender. In another situation, she says Sheldon knew immediately who he was there to comfort. “He went straight to the lady who was having a difficult day, and for me, that was the first time I actually saw him in action.”

Bender says she sees how Sheldon calms down victims which allows them to open up to police officers. Bender attended a training program with Sheldon in Florida earlier this month. She says Sheldon continues to train and could receive his certification in the coming weeks. 

Not only is he making headway in the field, Sheldon has already made a difference with employees. “Some officers you see the stress when they walk in, just their faces, they are just hard I guess, all of us are. They come in and they see Sheldon and all of that melts away,” said Bender. “Even the biggest, burliest, toughest cops will come in and say ‘Sheldon, how you doing?’ They get down on the floor and pet him and everything.”

Bender presented the Therapy Dog Program to the department last fall and donated Sheldon to SMPD when the program was approved. “The chief was on board right away, this is a really good thing for the department.”

Bender says she also plans for Sheldon to reach out to other departments throughout the state in need. “That is one of my goals, to help other agencies, or other departments that have to work a tragic event.”

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