READING — Chief David Clark is pleased to share that the Reading Police Department will soon welcome the second of two comfort dogs that will be paired with its School Resource Officers (SROs).
The first of two lab puppies arrived earlier this month, and the second puppy — which is now five weeks old — will join the department in about three weeks. School Resource Officer Brian Lewis is partnered with the first puppy, a black lab named Cooper, and the second puppy will be partnered with School Resource Officer Matt Vatcher.
Reading Police have seen an uptick in mental health-related calls in both schools and in the community at large since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and were seeking new strategies for responding to those calls in a way that deescalates situations and fosters positive interactions with residents. Officers Vatcher and Lewis helped conduct research that led to the initiative to add two comfort dogs.
The department expects the dogs will help soothe children in need and also provide support for victims of crime and trauma. While the dogs will spend most of their time with Officers Lewis and Vatcher at Reading Memorial High School and the elementary and middle schools, respectively, they will also visit the senior center, assisted living facilities and make appearances at community events.
Lewis and Vatcher worked closely with Brad McNamara, who is both a member of the Lunenberg Police Department and oversees the comfort dog program for Boonefield Labs in Rindge, New Hampshire, to develop a comfort dog program for Reading. Breeders Peggi and David Brogan have donated over 18 dogs to law enforcement comfort programs throughout New England, and have generously committed to provide two to Reading Police.
“Our first comfort dog, Cooper, is training and off to a great start, and now we are excited to welcome our second comfort dog as well,” said Chief Clark. “We have already received a lot of great name suggestions before we settled on Cooper for Officer Lewis’ dog, and we are excited to see all the suggestions from students once again for the dog that will partner with Officer Vatcher.”
The Reading Police Department would like to thank several community partners for their donations to the program, including One Reading, vet care donated by Middlesex Animal Hospital of Reading, training donated by Bark n’ Roll of North Reading, pet supplies from Everything but the Dog of Reading, and Target of Stoneham. Donations can be made to the Town of Reading Comfort Dog Program, and mailed to the Reading Police Department, 15 Union St., Reading, MA 01867.
“On behalf of the Reading Police Department and the Town of Reading, I cannot thank Boonefield Labs enough for the support and dedication they have shown us,” said Chief Clark. “Our police department and our community will benefit from their generosity.”
Both dogs will reside with their respective partners and their families.
Police are once again holding a naming contest so that students who attend schools in Reading can submit possible names. Students of all ages who attend any school in Reading are invited to submit their naming suggestions via email to email@example.com.
When submitting, please include the student’s name and what school they attend in order to be considered. Name suggestions should be submitted by April 13.