Latest SK Police Officer ready to indicate he’s the highest dog | News

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. —  Whenever you meet him, the latest member of South Kingstown’s police department might sniff you. Or lick your hand.

He loves treats and chew toys too, and being pet.

That’s OK. He gets to wear a badge.

His name is Leo, and the department’s first compassion dog is a excellent boy.

Leo, a 10-week-old black and white Bernedoodle puppy, got to satisfy the general public for the primary time this week at his introduction at police headquarters.

Shaggy Leo was well-behaved, and South Kingstown Police Chief Matthew Moynihan held the pup’s paw up with a purpose to officially swear him in as a member of the force.

“Leo listen,” Moynihan said, before reciting the oath of office.

“I’ll faithfully execute the duties of a compassion dog, and I’ll offer love unconditionally and empathy without judgment,” Moynihan said. “I’ll put smiles on the faces of youngsters and (on) hurt individuals who feel bad. I will probably be here once I’m needed and be a best friend to everyone I meet. I’ll try my best daily and can at all times be a excellent boy.”

Naturally, Leo didn’t repeat the oath, but he was accepted with smiles, laughs and applause.

South Kingstown has waited with excitement for months for Leo to reach. The police department held a naming contest for the puppy over the summer that generated social media buzz.

“The interest on this program and on this puppy has been overwhelming and we received just over 1,800 online submissions for suggested names,” Moynihan said. “In police jargon, LEO means ‘law enforcement officer,’ and we particularly liked it since it recognizes that he’s a crucial member of our team.”

Leo’s role in South Kingstown will probably be as a support dog for first responders and to assist the police department with outreach to children, seniors, victims of crimes and as needed for crisis response locally.

“Studies show that a dog’s presence will help lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, making Leo able to doing work that few humans can accomplish,” Moynihan said. “Our officers’ well-being is paramount, and we will probably be asking Leo to function a wellness ambassador within the department and a compassion dog in our town. He has town-wide jurisdiction, and we all know he’s as much as the duty.”

Leo’s human partner – called a handler – is Community Resource Officer Bryan Monte, a six-year veteran of the department. The pup will spend his off-duty hours with Monte in addition to travel around town with him on duty.  

“He and Leo will make an exceptional team. We’re happy with them and looking out forward to all the great work they’ll do,” Moynihan said.

Town Manager James Manni said Leo’s presence and the compassion dog program would make the town a greater place.

“This will probably be probably the most loved puppy,” Manni said. “Thirty-thousand people here have been waiting for this.”

Manni said the concept of a compassion dog is latest to veteran police. But it surely comes at the best time, as police nationwide see a spike in mental health related calls for service.

“This beautiful puppy will help relieve quite a lot of stress for quite a lot of people,” he said. “I might need you bring him by my office now and again.”

The state’s Crisis Intervention Team and the town’s police have developed a partnership to deal with behavioral health needs locally, Thundermist Health Center and CIT program assistant Allie Welch said.

“This little guy will play an enormous role. Adding a compassion dog to the department is correct according to the CIT mission,” Welch added. “When morale and mental health are supported on the departmental level, it brings success into the community as well. We’re so excited for SKPD and know the compassion dog is an ideal 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’re joyful to donate this bernedoodle puppy to the South Kingstown Police Department in appreciation for the necessary work that first responders do daily,” owner Kerry Buckley said. “His sweet disposition and sort heart are perfect for this job. He and Officer Monte will probably be an ideal team for the department and this town for a few years to come back.”

Leo will get his food from Rumford Pet Centers.

“This is a superb opportunity to contribute to our community and support this very special dog,” Michael Squatrito of Rumford Pet Centers said. “We sit up for seeing Officer Monte and Leo in our stores and around South Kingstown.”

AT&T provided funding for the compassion dog program on the South Kingstown Police Department as a part of its commitment to the health and wellness of first responders.

“First responders in Rhode Island and across the country take care of traumatic and high-stress events day by day,” AT&T spokeswoman Patricia Jacobs said. “Public safety service comes with great personal sacrifice, and lots of first responders silently carry the burden. That’s where we hope this compassion dog program will help. With only a wag of the tail, compassion dogs will help decrease stress, boost morale, improve coping and so way more.”

On Monday, Leo got to satisfy the South Kingstown Town Council. Monte brought the puppy as much as the dais to ensure that each councilor to say hello and pet him. Leo’s small tail began to wag when Councilwoman Deborah Bergner gave him a latest squeaky chew toy.

“We’re getting quite a lot of calls already from the community from the colleges and different businesses that may’t wait to satisfy him,” Moynihan said. “We’re enthusiastic about it.”