The Portage Police Department has welcomed their newest member of the Portage Police Department, a therapy dog named Tilly. Tilly is a 2-year-old Blue Heeler who has been trained to be a therapy dog at Paws & Stripes College, an AKC recognized program created by and ran by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Tilly’s job will be to provide comfort and recovery for child crime victims, help veterans and first responders suffering from anxiety disorders, and visit any citizens in the community who could benefit from animal assisted comfort, the PPD says.

(Portage Police Department / Facebook)

The PPD says Tilly and the associated training for her handler comes at no cost to the city, other than minimal travel expenses.  Tilly received extensive training through the program, prior to Captain Mark Monks traveling to Brevard County, where they went through a 40-hour course together to become a Nationally Registered Therapy Dog Team.  There, Captain Monks learned the “do’s and don’ts” of deploying a therapy dog for crime victims and deployment in schools.  He also learned case law relating to the use of therapy dogs during investigations and court room appearances.

(Portage Police Department / Facebook)

The Paws & Stripes program started back in 2006 as a basic dog obedience program to help save the lives of dogs in animal shelters. Carefully selected and trained Jail inmates are paired with shelter dogs who train the dogs in both voice commands and hand signals. The dogs were housebroken, and learned basic obedience skills all with the anticipation of getting the dog adopted into its forever home.

When Chief Candiano learned of this program, he believed it would be a great benefit to the department and the city.  During his time as SRO at Portage High School, Chief Candiano experienced the benefits of therapy dogs while observing two canines interact with students and staff in the school.

Additionally, it has been one of the goals of the current administration to expand our community outreach and interaction.  The PPD says it believes Tilly is the perfect ambassador to help them with this.