SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –The day-to-day stress of being a police officer can be difficult to manage. Which is why the Sioux Falls Police Department is developing a new program to help officers with their mental health.
Leo the dog is a four-month-old Golden Retriever. When Leo turns one, he will go to work as a therapy dog for SFPD, a first for the department.
Patrol Officer Dustin Jorgensen brought the idea of getting a therapy dog at the end of last year.
“When I brought it back to Chief Thum, he was all about it very supportive. He said, let’s find someone local and see if we can get this project up and running,” Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen worked with Maggie Pearson to build this new program.
“I was very excited about getting this program started from the ground up. I was able to get connected through one of my mentors, with Agent Malloy at the FBI. So we’re modeling our program off of their therapy dog program,” said Maggie Pearson, owner and founder of tenacious dog training.
“It’s a new concept and he brings a lot of I mean that that role of just an animal you can pet and it kind of helps you out,” said Sergeant Eric Meyer, Leo’s Handler.
Pearson has spent months socializing Leo for his new position…
“Therapy work is a lot of pressure for an animal, they are around increased cortisol levels, they are helping stressed out individuals. So we have to make sure that the dog one has the temperament for the job, two enjoys the job,” Malloy said.
Person says Leo will help relieve the stress that officers face during their day to day…
“He might be working with officers that have very high cortisol levels, high adrenaline, because they just came back from a tough call. So he really needs to be able to help them lower those rates, and help again to kind of get them back into their own bodies,” Person said.
In addition to working with police officers, Leo will also working at various organizations and the Sioux Falls School District.
“Leo has even gone over to the Sheriff’s Office, he’s gone over to the Clerk of Courts, the State’s Attorney’s Office is going to use them, you know, for testifying, because he could sit right there next to them while they’re testifying in court,” Jorgensen said.
“They’re all excited to see him, everywhere I’ve gone with them. He gets a lot of positive reaction, and a lot of good, positive good feedback from every one so far,” said Sergeant Eric Meyer, Leo’s Handler.
Sergeant Eric Meyer will take over as Leo’s handler when he gets older.
“He’s really fun to be around. He brings a lot of excitement to my day and other officers as well,” Meyer said.
He says he is excited for his new role with Leo…
“He’s just there to make you feel better about the situation and brings out a lot of positivity,” Meyer said.
And all the good he will bring to the Department and the City of Sioux Falls.
‘I’m most excited about to see the positive impact that him and his handler have in our community. And at the police department. It’s always rewarding to start a project and see it to the end,” Pearson said.
Pearson has worked with therapy dogs since 2015.
She says therapy dogs can help lower blood pressure, pulse rates and release ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters just by petting them.