The Police Department in Great Barrington can count themselves among the first in Berkshire County to add a therapy dog to its force.
The good boy will be used to help reduce anxiety and provide comfort to crime victims and witnesses and help increase communications between officers and people who may have been traumatized by violence. The animal will also provide therapeutic relief to those who work at the police department.
“A therapy dog is also a valuable tool in fostering dialogue and communications between the police department and the community we serve,” Police Chief William Walsh said in a Facebook post .
Officer Kristopher Balestro will be the dog’s handler.
K9 Officer Beko is an English Labrador Retriever that will be donated by Boonefield Labradors from Rindge, New Hampshire.
To date, Team Boonfield have donated eleven dogs to police departments throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island as well as provide much-needed therapy with their certified therapy dog program.
On their website, Boonefield Labradors explain that therapy dogs play a different helping role than service dogs and emotional support animals.
"They aren't trained to live with a specific handler. Rather, these are dogs that - with their human teammate (often the dog's owner) - volunteer in clinical settings, such as hospitals, mental health institutions, hospices, schools, and nursing homes, where they provide comfort, affection, and even love in the course of their work. Therapy dogs are trained to be comfortable in new environments and to interact with different people. They must have a calm temperament, be unfazed by unfamiliar noises and movements, be comfortable being handled, and love people."
Officer Balestro will incorporate this dog into his everyday patrol responsibilities, including visits to local schools, the Town Library, Senior Center, hospital and nursing homes, athletic events, and children’s programs. This new program began several months ago and was spearheaded by Sergeant Paul Storti.This program is funded 100% by donations and Officer Balestro.