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Yale police K9 doubles as service, comfort dog

<i>WFSB</i><br/>Yale police K9 doubles as service
Yale police K9 doubles as service

By WFSB Staff

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    NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (WFSB) — A lot goes into day in the life of an officer of the Yale Police Department.

Officer Rich Simons and his K9 partner officer Heidi spoke with Channel 3 about it.

On any given day, Patrolman Simons, a 28-year veteran of Yale PD, and his K9 partner, Officer Heidi, can be found patrolling Yale Police Department, the campus of Yale University and the surrounding areas. Their job is to comfort, support and protect.

“She just makes my day so much brighter,” said Kelly Qiu, a graduate student.

“We love having Heidi around,” said Felix Aidala, also a graduate student. “We just had her come over last week. We got to play [with] her and pet her, and it definitely helped relieve stress.”

“We have long and tiring days sometimes and she’s a calming presence really,” said graduate student Elodie Chervin.

Officer Heidi is more than just a service dog for the students and community. She offers moral support for her fellow officers too.

Community policing has a new twist with these service dogs.

Simons said he knew at the start of his career that dogs could make a difference. He brought his own dogs in to help give support to those who needed it.

Now with Heidi, he said his dream came true. He can’t imagine his workday without Heidi.

“Not at all,” Simons said. “I’ve been doing this so long as a police officer and finally getting Heidi, I feel like I’m 22 again as a police officer. It makes me feel, it warms my heart everyday I’m with Heidi and I go home with my best friend and come to work with my best friend. It’s the best feeling, I mean the support I’ve gotten from this department and my chief’s office is amazing.”

Recently, Simons and Heidi were called to action when Yale went into lockdown from bomb threats.

“I went around with Heidi and created smiles with them, Heidi would go up and wag her tail and say ‘hi,’ would give them kisses and interact with them,” Simons said. “It made the day go a lot easier for them and ease the tension that they had and we just discussed the day, and they just kept saying ‘thank God for having Heidi around, that made our day a lot better in this tough situation.’”

Assistant chief of Yale Police Department, Anthony Campbell, said he couldn’t be happier with Heidi on the team.

“Heidi is really a Rockstar, that’s the only way to really describe who she is,” Campbell said. “She’s the newest addition to the police department. I’m really thankful to her handler Rich Simons who really helped us to get Heidi. Heidi comes from Puppies Behind Bars, a program which develops the dogs and trains them to be comfort therapy dogs. She really has brought a great deal of approachability for officers here at Yale University PD, and she really has been vital for helping us reach the community.”

Campbell said that he thought the comfort service dog was really new to community policing.

“I think that particularly for many communities, particularly communities that have been marginalized, when you think of a dog, and policing usually has a negative connotation,” he said. “What we’re trying to do, and I think what many departments are trying to do, is shift that and by having a beautiful yellow lab comfort therapy dog like Heidi, it changes the perception when it comes to policing and dogs.”

Campbell said he’s happy that the Yale University Police Department was the first Ivy League institution to have a comfort therapy dog.

“We hope that many others will follow suit because I think that the students, the faculty the staff have all embraced Heidi,” he said. “The officers have also, and so I think it’s really helpful for true community wellness.”

“Having Heidi over a year now has changed the outlook of how I see policing, and how I interact with people,” Simons said. “Because she gives me this opportunity to bring closer to see our story. The Yale University Police Department story, how we’re normal, we’re human beings we care, and Heidi gives us that opportunity to tell about us. And they want to hear about our story, they want to hear about my family, Heidi and the other officers, that we care about what’s going in in their lives. So, having Heidi has bridged that gap to letting them see part of us personally.”

The K9 duo is making this holiday season a little brighter and merrier and changing lives, one wagging tail at a time.

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