Gracie, the Police Station Comfort Dog

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Lately, my pieces have focused on comfort dogs. But one thing I never thought of was a comfort dog for a police station. When I heard golden retrievers and police stations in the same sentence, I automatically assumed “police dog”, canines that get down and dirty with the criminals and drug hunts.

But when you think about it, it makes complete scene. Victims of all sorts of crimes have to go to the station. These victims are scared and shaken to the core. They need to be comforted. And that’s where Gracie comes in.

The Canine

Credit: http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2016/06/dogs-will-provide-comfort-in-the-wake-of-horrific-orlando-massacre/
Credit: http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2016/06/dogs-will-provide-comfort-in-the-wake-of-horrific-orlando-massacre/

“She brings a lot of peace to people,” said Sievert, who introduced the comfort dog to his comrades at the police department two years ago and brings her back about every two weeks. “That’s her job.”

This fall, the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association recognized Gracie’s professional companionship by naming her to the state’s Animal Hall of Fame, which has honored 58 animals since its inception 19 years ago.

The 6-year-old pup, owned by Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Davenport, isn’t your average stay-at-home pet.

She’s responded to nine national tragedies and emergencies during her career. But she first had to finish her total training of 14 months. Two days after the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Gracie arrived in Florida under the watch of Sievert, who retired from the force in 2012, and his wife, Sandy.

The Job

During her week there, Gracie consoled those shaken by the tragedy that left 49 people dead. Including survivors, first responders and victims’ family members and friends. Twelve golden retrievers, all members of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog program, aided the grieving process. In fact, we covered a previous article about this particular group.

The organization has 120 dogs across the country, but Gracie remains the only one in Iowa.

“We are so lucky to have her in the Quad-City area,” said Laura Bahns, Gracie’s primary care provider at Kimberly Crest Veterinary Hospital. “People know her as the Trinity Lutheran comfort dog, but they don’t realize everything she does.”

Her Fans

Bahns, whose children attend Trinity Lutheran School, nominated her furry patient for the award.

When she’s in town, Gracie accompanies children as they practice reading, veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder, and residents at nursing and hospice homes.

Wednesday marked Gracie’s most recent visit to the Davenport Police Department, and her first time there since receiving the recognition for her services.

In just an hour, she cheered up dozens on the job, from custodial staff to the station’s top cop.

Jane Marsh-Johnson, Gracie’s main handler and director of her comfort ministry, also joined the tour. They spent the majority of time in the Criminal Investigation Division with several detectives.

“She must know I’m stressed,” Cpl. Joshua Stocking said as he rubbed Gracie’s ears. “You need to start bringing her up here more often.”

As they completed the rounds, a message sounded over the building’s intercom system: “Gracie to the chief’s office.”

Upon arrival, Sievert removed Gracie’s leash to let her find Chief Paul Sikorski by the sound of his voice.

“Come here, you!” he shouted with open arms as Gracie, wagging her tail, ran toward him, later knocking him off balance.

Sikorski congratulated her on the award and thanked Sievert, a longtime friend and mentor, for stopping by the criminal investigation division.

“They deal with a lot of ugly stuff over there, and some of them may internalize it,” said Sikorski, who has a golden retriever at home. “It’s just good to have her go over there and give us some love.”

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