The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Police Department’s new comfort dog isn’t quite ready to join the force, but she’s working on it, according to Officer Callum Cochran.
Charlee, an 8-month-old yellow lab, is still currently training with Hero Pups, a program geared toward training service dogs and, more recently, comfort dogs.
Cochran, who will be Charlee’s handler once she’s done training, said that he’s hesitant to provide a timeline as to when that would be.
“We’re all anxious, and waiting for her, and I know everyone else is too,” Cochran said. But, “I want her to be ready.”
Charlee’s training with Hero Pups, according to Cochran, is going well.
“She’ll train on campus and she’s been making visits to the dorms. Every time she comes to campus…she’s always training,” Cochran said. He added that it’s a matter of “exposing her to as many possible things, just so she’s comfortable in situations.”
Her training has been delayed slightly, according to Cochran, because of Hero Pups’ need to focus on other New Hampshire police departments that needed dogs sooner. “I know she [Laura Barker, founder of Hero Pups] really had to focus on the dog for Franklin recently…they had some serious calls that they needed the dog to assist with.” Hero Pups additionally handled the licensing and administrative processes in order for the police department to get Charlee.
Charlee’s duties, when she’s ready, will mostly be focused on mental health.
“Our mental health calls have just drastically increased,” Cochran said. “And I always paint the picture of, if you’re having a health crisis, and you see me walk in, a six-foot male, I’m probably the last person you’ll want to talk to about your feelings.” But the issue, Cochran said, is that when “someone’s having that kind of crisis, we want to be able to get them the help they need.” Cochran said the idea is to have Charlee “bridge the gap and kind of show that I’m a person and you can talk to me.”
As to what Charlee will specifically be doing, Cochran said it’s “still kinda up in the air…We’re figuring out what her personality is and making sure she gets the best adjustment.” Cochran will “ideally” be her primary handler, and she’ll follow along with his shift.
“If I go on calls, she’ll be with me, and if I’m not on calls, she’ll be hanging out around the PD…She’s specifically geared toward community relations and health calls.” Cochran said that he already does a lot of events, “so she may just be added to my daily routine.”
This was a component in choosing Cochran to be Charlee’s handler.
“I’ve always been geared toward the community aspect, so that’s kind of what made me a good fit,” he said. Plus, Cochran has “always been a dog person…I’ve always had dogs, and I know how my dogs help me.”
Cochran described Charlee as “a little sassy,” because she’s still a puppy and has a habit of “testing the limits” as to what she can get away with.
“You need a personality to work here,” Cochran said. “I think she’ll be excellent for this environment.”
“We’re all excited for her to be here,” Cochran said. “We see her, and everyone starts smiling, and whatever’s being done will just get dropped…I think she’ll be a great asset.” Cochran added that with comfort dogs becoming more common nationwide, “I’m excited to be getting into it when we are, because I think this is the perfect environment for a comfort dog based on the calls we deal with.”