Standard Poodle comes on board as a comfort dog from Acushnet Schools
ACUSHNET – She’s mature for her age – calm, cool and poised.
You can see it as she sits serenely as her future training, duties and expectations are discussed during a recent interview at Acushnet Police Headquarters.
She doesn’t show the slightest concern as all of these responsibilities on behalf of a school district – and a city – loom before her.
Not bad for an 11 week old.
“She” is the curly white-furred Standard Poodle who will partner with School Resource Officer Derek Cathcart as a comfort dog and community resource.
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Help the police choose a name
Although his role has been set, the 3-month-old pooch had not been named at press time.
The department is asking for the residents’ help in naming her. People posted suggestions on the Acushnet PD Facebook page, and over 140 suggestions and comments were posted on the first day.
How the department got a comfort dog
How did she come to join the department at such a young age?
This is thanks to Melissa “MJ” Viera, of MJ’s Pet Training Academy, 1 Titleist Drive, who not only donated her to fill the position, but also donates all of the dog’s training and grooming needs. .
Cathcart explained during the interview at the police station that he began looking for a candidate comfort dog after attending recent training sessions regarding their use in schools. He noted that comfort dogs have recently proliferated among ORS in the state and have helped them in their mission to connect with children.
He began looking for a likely canine candidate, emailing a shelter and others. He knew, however, that even with the right dog, they were going to have to provide the proper training, which is expensive.
Cathcart said he also emailed MJ’s Pet Training Academy.
And he was barking at the right tree.
“MJ called me back that day and said she would donate the dog, the training, the grooming – the nut soup. That’s how it all started. She took the ball and ran with it,” he said.
What the dog will be trained to do
“We have a lot of training planned,” Viera said. She’ll start with puppy training before moving on to basic manners and then advanced canine good citizen training “to teach her how to interact with people and be really polite in public.”
She weighs around 12 pounds at present, but will grow to around 50 pounds as an adult. “They get pretty big,” Viera said.
And she should know.
She breeds standard poodles in addition to running the training academy.
“Standard” refers to size and is the largest of the three varieties of poodles, larger than “toy” and “miniature” poodles.
“They’re known to be an intelligent breed of dog,” Viera said at an introductory meeting with Selectmen on July 13, joined by Cathcart and chef Christopher Richmond. She added that they excel in many areas and were bred specifically to have a good temperament.
“We expect this pup to excel at this kind of work,” she said as she stood on the catwalk holding the unfazed pooch in her arms (who yawned modestly as the trappings of his breed were boasted about) during the meeting.
“We will continue to assess her temperament regularly to make sure she is really well suited for this job,” Viera said.
She will live with Cathcart and undergo daily training. In fact, she already moved in with her partner SRO last week and gets along great with her rescued 7-year-old Lab mix.
Once the pooch is named with the help of the community, she will gain more social media attention in hopes of raising funds to offset future veterinary and food needs.
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But, Cathcart added, the program is already off to a good start thanks to donations from MJ.
A real ‘swearing-in’ ceremony for the puppies in training will also take place in the near future.
And when she’s ready for service, she’ll join Cathcart on her elementary and middle school tours.
It will provide what its name suggests: comfort, helping students feel better throughout their school day, especially children who are anxious or struggling with behavioral problems.
“Just having him with us every day as we greet students as they enter school will be huge,” Cathcart said.