Rochester Police Officer Amy Drehmer connects with the department’s first comfort dog, Walter.

Rochester Police Officer Amy Drehmer connects with the department’s first comfort dog, Walter.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Rochester PD adds comfort dog to force

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 14, 2021

 Walter, the Rochester Police Department’s first comfort dog, was provided free of charge by Michigan Doodle Rescue Connect.

Walter, the Rochester Police Department’s first comfort dog, was provided free of charge by Michigan Doodle Rescue Connect.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROCHESTER — The Rochester Police Department recently welcomed its first comfort dog to the team.

Walter, a 10-week old doodle, has arrived and is under the care of Officer Amy Drehmer, who serves as the liaison officer for Rochester Community Schools.

Walter has already begun his training — with Mary Jo Patel, of Custom Dog Training — to become a certified therapy dog and will eventually work with Drehmer in the school district and around the community.

Chief Steve Schettenhelm said the department’s new comfort dog program will be beneficial in a number of areas.

“With Officer Drehmer and her job as school liaison officer, it’s certainly a continuing way to reach out to the students and kind of break down stereotypes that may exist between a police officer and students,” he said.

The comfort dog will also be an asset in critical incidents — such as mental health calls, domestic violence cases or reports of child abuse, he said.

“We look at being able to use this in situations ... where the calming effect of a dog can be helpful to those that are involved, in particular, children,” he explained.

The comfort dog can also “help take the edge off difficult moments” for police officers, according to Schettenhelm.

“Police work is a very stressful occupation, and we’ve had situations here where people have had critical incidents stress debriefing based on the impact of an event. Certainly, having a comfort dog here would be very beneficial for the members of the department for their own mental health,” he said.

Walter was provided to the Police Department free of charge by Michigan Doodle Rescue Connect, which has a program to match specially selected puppies with police departments to serve as comfort dogs. The group is providing the dog — and all related expenses, including food, veterinary costs and other daily needs — to the department for free moving forward.

The only cost the city will incur is approximately $2,000 to modify Drehmer’s patrol car to install a temperature control warning device to ensure the safety of the dog if the car stalls with the windows up. The device, Schettenhelm said, warns the officer, sounds the siren and rolls down the windows at a preset temperature. The cost also includes “minor modifications” to the rear seat compartment of Drehmer’s vehicle to provide a safe space for Walter to ride in the car.

The Rochester City Council unanimously approved the development of the Rochester Police Department’s new comfort dog program in June.

During the meeting, Rochester City Councilwoman Amanda Harrison voiced her support.

“My dog is therapy-dog certified, so I’ve seen the impact they can have firsthand when they are in the community. I really miss volunteering with her,” she said.

Rochester City Councilwoman Ann Peterson said she thinks the program is “a great thing to have for the community.”

“From working in the schools, I think this is going to help the community overall a lot, and I appreciate the work that they did in making sure that the cost is limited,” she said.

Mayor Stuart Bikson, who works in the Waterford School District, said his district has a comfort dog program, and it “seems to be a great thing.”

“Anxiety is obviously a big issue — especially with the pandemic — so I’m in favor of it,” Bikson.

Walter joins the Police Department’s two other dogs — K-9 Kitt, a German shepherd from Slovakia, and Pearl, a Labrador retriever trained to detect explosives.

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