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It’s the paw patrol! Comfort dogs join the ranks at three Connecticut police departments

Community Engagement Officer Eric Fredricks of Waterford Police with Comfort Dog Hodges.
Brian Scott-Smith
WSHU Public Radio
Community Engagement Officer Eric Fredricks of Waterford Police with comfort dog Hodges.

Connecticut police departments have employed three new comfort dogs across the state.

K-9s Skipper, Jules and Hodges are three black Labrador brothers that were trained by inmates in New York prisons through the organization Puppies Behind Bars.

Hodges is now an officer with Waterford Police Department. Police Chief Marc Balestracci said Hodges will not just help comfort the local community but officers, too.

“Police officers are going through a tough time during this pandemic just like everybody else and officer wellness is a focus of mine,” Balestracci said. “The dog has been in the building for about an hour, and I’ve seen officers engaging with him, smiling and playing with him and so it's already working, we’re super excited about that.”

Hodges’ partner, officer Eric Fredricks, who works in the department’s community engagement, said the comfort dogs help to change the perception of police.

“You start interacting with people and you know people approach us and they’re like, oh what is this? And you explain what it is and you know I interacted with someone at the mall and they said I’m not a huge fan of cops, and I can’t believe this is a program, and we just started talking so it already builds those conversations,” Fredricks said.

Hodges' brother Skipper has joined the Colchester Police Department and his other brother Jules has joined Southern Connecticut State University.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.