The Gainesville Police Department welcomed one of its newest members three weeks ago – a six-month-old English lab puppy named Dusk, who is in training to serve as the department’s therapy dog.
Dusk was six weeks old when she was surrendered to Rucker Dog Training after her original family could no longer care for her. Rucker Dog Training owner, Scot Rucker, decided to use the young puppy for a cause. He invested $10,000 in Dusk's therapy dog training.
However, Rucker decided to pass Dusk’s initial obedience training to the Wiedner family, who had been training their family dog at Rucker Dog Training. Addie, 11, took on the big responsibility with the help of her mother.
“She started with our online puppy classes, and then did basic obedience, and then off-leash training,” Rucker said. “And now they're to the point where they donated the dog to [Cpl. Jessica Van] with the Gainesville Police Department.”
Addie was initially sad when Dusk was ready to move on to the Gainesville Police Department. However, Van, Dusk’s new handler, makes sure the Wiedner family has a chance to see the dog on a regular basis.
Rucker said this experiment was an excellent way for Addie to learn how to give back to the community.
“It was sort of a social experiment as well, to see how that went,” Rucker said. “And now that she's done it, we're going to approach other parents about doing it with their kids and stuff.”
Now Dusk goes to work with Van at the Gainesville Police Department, where she is exposed to different stimulating situations. Dusk will undergo more training next month.
“We'll have her in the [American Kennel Club] Canine Good Citizen [program] through Rucker Dog Training,” Van said. “She's already graduated from her basic obedience, she still has some more training to do.”
According to Gainesville Chief of Police Jay Parrish, dogs can help victims of sexual assault and other traumatic situations feel more comfortable when they are being questioned by detectives.
“It's just an emotional relief to be able to pet a dog that loves on you,” Parrish said. “No one loves like a dog does. And I guess it's just showing that love is one of the main benefits.”
Even though she has not been exposed to victims yet, Parrish said Dusk is already cheering up other officers.
"It's really amazing to see how some of these hardened, tough-shell police officers turn into mush when Dusk comes around and jumps up in their lap," Parrish said.
Other training will test Dusk’s tolerance for being touched.
“They're gonna go through a series of tests,” Van said. “They'll mess with her paws or mouth, just to see if a kid were to be playing with her, how she would react to them. I believe there's some certain tests that even involve people in wheelchairs, how she would react around that.”
Rucker estimates that Dusk could complete her training by the end of summer.
However, Van says there is one area where Dusk does not need training.
“The level of love that she has there, that's definitely not trainable,” Van said. “That's just part of who she is.”