SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI — When you meet him, the new member of the South Kingstown Police Department might sniff you around. Or lick your hand.
He also loves treats and chew toys, and being a pet.
Its good. He wears a badge.
His name is Leo and the first compassionate dog in the department is a very good boy.
Leo, a 10-week-old black and white Bernedoodle puppy, met the public for the first time this week when he was introduced to police headquarters.
Shaggy Leo was well behaved and South Kingstown Police Chief Matthew Moynihan raised the pup’s paw to officially swear him into the force.
“Leo, be careful,” Moynihan said before reciting the oath of office.
“I will faithfully perform the duties of a compassionate dog and offer unconditional love and empathy without judgment,” Moynihan said. “I will put smiles on children’s faces and (on) hurt people who feel bad. I’ll be there when I’m needed and I’ll be best friends with everyone I meet. I will do my best every day and I will always be a very good boy.
Naturally, Leo didn’t repeat the oath, but it was accepted with smiles, laughter and applause.
South Kingstown have been eagerly awaiting Leo’s arrival for months. The police department held a naming contest for the pup over the summer that generated buzz on social media.
“Interest in this program and this pup has been overwhelming and we received just over 1,800 online submissions for suggested names,” Moynihan said. “LEO means ‘law enforcement officer’ in police jargon, and we particularly liked him because he recognizes that he is an important member of our team. »
Leo’s role in South Kingstown will be to serve as a support dog for first responders and assist the police department in reaching out to children, the elderly, victims of crime and, when needed, responding to crises in the community.
“Studies show that having a dog around can help lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, making Leo capable of doing work that few humans can do,” Moynihan said. “The well-being of our officers is paramount, and we will ask Leo to serve as the department’s welfare ambassador and compassionate dog in our city. He has jurisdiction over the entire city and we know he is up to the task.
Leo’s human partner – called a handler – is Community Resources Officer Bryan Monte, a six-year veteran of the department. The pup will spend his off hours with Monte and move around town with him on duty.
“He and Leo will be a phenomenal team. We are proud of them and look forward to all the good work they do,” said Moynihan.
City manager James Manni said Leo’s presence and the compassion dog program would make the city a better place.
“He’s going to be the most beloved puppy ever,” Manni said. “Thirty thousand people here have been waiting for this.”
Manni said the concept of a compassionate dog is new to veteran police. But it comes at the right time, as the national police see an increase in calls for service related to mental health.
“This beautiful pup will help relieve a lot of stress for a lot of people,” he said. “I might ask you to bring her to my office from time to time.”
The state’s Crisis Response Team and city police have developed a partnership to address behavioral health needs in the community, said Thundermist Health Center and CIT program assistant Allie Welch.
“This little guy is going to play a big role. Adding a compassionate dog to the department is very much in line with CIT’s mission,” Welch added. “When morale and mental health are supported at the departmental level, it also brings success in the community. We are so excited for SKPD and know the compassion dog is a great addition to their team.
Leo was donated to the department by his breeders, Michael and Kerry Buckley of Cove Angels Breeding, based in Taunton, Massachusetts.
“We are pleased to donate this Bernedoodle puppy to the South Kingstown Police Department in recognition of the important work that first responders do every day,” owner Kerry Buckley said. “His gentle temperament and good heart are perfect for this job. He and Officer Monte will be a great team for the department and this city for many years to come.
Leo will get his food from Rumford Pet Centers.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to our community and support this very special dog,” said Michael Squatrito of Rumford Pet Centers. “We look forward to seeing Officer Monte and Leo in our stores and around South Kingstown.”
AT&T funded the South Kingstown Police Department’s Compassion Dog Program as part of its commitment to the health and welfare of first responders.
“First responders in Rhode Island and across the country face traumatic and highly stressful events daily,” AT&T spokeswoman Patricia Jacobs said. “Public safety comes with great personal sacrifice, and many first responders silently carry the burden. That’s where we hope this compassionate dog program can help. With a simple flick of their tail, compassionate dogs can help reduce stress, boost morale, improve coping and so much more.
On Monday, Leo met with South Kingstown City Council. Monte brought the pup to the stage for each counselor to say hello and pet him. Leo’s little tail started wiggling when counselor Deborah Bergner gave him a new squeaky chew toy.
“We’re already getting a lot of calls from the school community and different companies who are looking forward to meeting him,” Moynihan said. “We are pleased.”