Brown University’s Department of Public Safety hosted a Cops and Comfort Dogs Symposium on Saturday, July 29, welcoming more than 30 comfort and therapy dogs from law enforcement agencies, …
Brown University’s Department of Public Safety hosted a Cops and Comfort Dogs Symposium on Saturday, July 29, welcoming more than 30 comfort and therapy dogs from law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and communities around the region, starting at 11 a.m. on Brown’s College Green. Cranston’s very own Cali, the police therapy dog, and her handler Detective Michael Iacone made an appearance to show off the state’s first officially ordained therapy dog.
“She started coming to the police station at just ten-weeks old,” Iacone said of Cali and her introduction into the world of police work as a therapy dog. “She was bought specifically to do this work. I and the doctor from Hasbro, Dr. Christine Barron, MD, came up with the idea. She got the funding for it, and then we specifically went out and got Cali for this work.”
Iacone said that Cali was working and training in her duties for almost a year before being certified as a therapy dog at the age of one. Cali’s main duty with the department is working with victims in the Special Victims unit.
“If a victim was to come in as the result of a sexual molestation or assault, really any crime she can be utilized for, she is there to help provide a sense of comfort,” Iacone explained. “When she’s not doing that, she spends time at the hospital with Dr. Barron. She is also now working Friday’s at schools with the self-contained classrooms and non-verbal kids. They love her.”
Iacone said that a lot of Cali’s training isn’t in what to do but, rather, in what not to do.
“A lot of work for her is just to be calm,” Iacone said. “She’s trained to stay calm and sit there while we talk to someone who is upset or has been through something. She also knows how to pick up on stuff. If we’re in a room and someone is crying she will pick up on that and be drawn to that. That’s something she learned to pick up on her own. We don’t want her jumping on people and things like that. Some of the non-verbal kids in the classroom will pick and pull and she’s trained to handle that without doing anything in response.”
The symposium was open to the public and featured information tables about therapy dogs and policing, representatives from organizations that train comfort dogs, free food and more. Attendees had the chance to learn about the dogs that are working with police across the region to bring comfort to victims, advocates, first responders and their communities. Cali and Detective Iacone looked forward to the event and a chance to show off their hard work.
The two-part symposium was hosted in part by Elvy, Brown’s first public safety comfort dog, and her handler, Officer Dustin Coleman. Three speakers met to talk about different aspects of the job and what responsibilities the dogs and their handlers have to undertake on a regular basis as well as how to best interact with their community.
Elvy joined Brown University’s Department of Public Safety in September 2022 as a trained comfort dog who helps to strengthen relationships between public safety officers, Brown students, faculty, staff and neighbors.
Donations of pet food and toys will be accepted to benefit the Potter League for Animals in Rhode Island. Guest dogs are not allowed.