- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - There were three new faces at second-shift roll call at Bloomington Police Department headquarters Monday afternoon.

Mocha, Angel and Romeo showed up. The standard poodle, Bernese mountain dog and Newfoundland, all good-sized canines, visited the squad room to spread love and goodwill.

And to get their bellies rubbed. All 120 pounds of Romeo rolled sideways, and there he was, balanced on his back, four furry, bear-sized paws up in the air.

BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff obliged, offering a few scratches. His three mutts at home would not be happy about the attention he paid Romeo.

Cops around America have been facing more than the usual amount of job-related stress as shootings by police and of police have shaken the core of the nation. So Kimberly Goy from the Monroe County Humane Association arranged for three ambassadors from the VIPaws program - volunteer handler and animal teams that bring joy to people in venues ranging from libraries to nursing homes - to stop by.



“Cats are great too,” Sgt. Shane Rasche uttered quietly as the dogs lolled around the room while a dozen uniformed officers got updates from the two previous shifts.

Goy said it made sense for the dogs to visit the police station given recent events, and Diekhoff welcomed the idea. “In light of everything going on in the country, and the additional stress officers are going through, what better place to bring the dogs?”

Kroger provided a giant cake thanking officers for what they do every day, and Baked! sent chocolate chip and s’mores cookies. There also was Starbucks coffee. No doughnuts.

And surprisingly, no dog treats.

For Julie Miller’s Romeo, rescued from a puppy mill, this kind of therapy visit is old hat. As she explained how the Newfoundland visits libraries, nursing homes and other sites to get petted and adored, the giant dog walked in a circle around Diekhoff, essentially tying the police chief up with his leash. He was trapped, momentarily. By a dog.

Sgt. David Alley took time to pet the dogs and ruffle their fur. He understands how a dog can make a difference, often a substantive difference, in the quality of a human’s life.

Waiting for him when he gets off his shift, always happy to see him, are his 12-year-old Labrador retriever, Maggie, and his 5-year-old pit bull, Gabe.

“They offer unconditional love and loyalty,” he said. “When you have a bad day and come home, they give you that look, that ‘I still love you’ look,” he said.

He acknowledges the special way service dogs can heal and soothe a soul. “Having an animal like that can help mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Alley said. And diminish the worries and stress of a long night out protecting the public.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/2at1YIg

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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