Sign In

Apple The Comfort Dog

June 15, 2020

She doesn’t catch criminals, but she does help their victims. Meet Apple, the facility comfort dog, who recently joined the Montrose Police Department to calm victims, officers, and City of Montrose staffers.

“What a facility dog will do is create a calming environment, kind of reduce anxiety of victims and make it easier for them to tell their story,” said MPD victim advocate Chantelle Bainbridge, who trained with the black Labrador retriever at Canine Companions for Independence in San Diego, Calif., and brought her home in February.

The dog also helps law enforcement’s peer support groups and city staff.

“This is the new best practice for victim advocate response,” Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said.

“Many people in our community respond better, sometimes, to animals, in particular, dogs.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed some of Apple’s availability for outreach, she has already gone to work.

Hall pointed to a past call involving a young child who had witnessed domestic violence.

“The amount of comfort that Apple provided this little boy on two occasions was tremendous. We actually received compliments from the little boy’s family about how important Apple was in calming his fear, giving him someone to stand next to,” Hall said.

“I know it’s working.”

Bainbridge has used Apple to help with about five child victims so far, with good results.

“The younger kiddos, they really like her,” she said.

Apple can soothe people who are traumatized by crime and also help out within the police department as a morale booster, or even for an officer who may be receiving peer support services.

What Apple does not do is the work of a police K-9. Those dogs are trained to perform such tasks as searching for suspects or lost people; to detect narcotics, or to take down suspects (bite dogs) when necessary. The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office has two police K-9s; MPD has none.

Nor is Apple an “emotional support animal” as the term is commonly understood. She instead helps reduce stress and anxiety associated with officers’ and civilian support staff members’ jobs, as well as comforts victims, Bainbridge said.

Just having Apple around helps with morale at the police department, said Bainbridge, who added the dog does not interfere with productivity.

Hall said that he hopes to one day see Apple admitted to court proceedings to help comfort witnesses, as has been done elsewhere.

“It’s just kind of cool, because we have a dog around the police department now, and it’s great to just be able to take a moment to pet Apple. She’s just a really cool dog,” he said.

Bainbridge, who is also Apple’s handler, became interested in a facility dog after attending a victim services meeting, where some fellow attendees had access to facility dogs. Separately, an MPD officer who had been involved in a shooting learned about the positive effect such animals can have on officers with experiences similar to his.

“He did mention to me about the benefits,” Bainbridge said. “I approached Blaine and told him what the officer had said, that there were a couple of advocates on the Front Range that had dogs. That’s how the ball got rolling.”

But it wasn’t a simple matter of making a call to someone with just any dog.

Bainbridge began researching other organizations that had facility dogs and the organizations that provide them. Some were closer than CCI, but too pricey. Others required two handlers. Canine Companions for Independence only needed one handler — and the nonprofit is able to donate the dogs to those who clear its selection process.

“It’s quite a process, actually, to receive one of these dogs,” Hall said. “We weren’t 100% sure we would be selected to receive one when we applied, but we were fortunate to.”

In February, Bainbridge attended a two-week training in San Diego, during which CCI’s trainers fully assessed how their dogs interacted with applicants, and weighed which dog was best suited to which person, and which purpose. Apple and Bainbridge graduated the program on Valentine’s Day, and the Lab headed back to Montrose with her.

Bainbridge’s only expenses were travel and food; there was no fee for Apple herself and Bainbridge was able to stay for free in a CCI dorm. The two must return yearly to re-certify.

Black Canyon Veterinary Clinic and Chow Down Pet Supply are contributing in-kind services for Apple’s ongoing needs and Walmart awarded the MPD a community grant that paid for Bainbridge’s travel costs.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Oscar The Blind Dog

    In the weeks leading up to a heated presidential election, another close race played out that had dog lovers across the country faithfully voting online every 24 hours for their favorite furry friends. For four weeks, from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9, nearly 1 million votes were cast in Garden & Gun magazine’s Good Dog […]

    Read more

    Genius Dog Challenge

    Six dogs are competing to become the world’s smartest dog – a title reserved for the pooch that learns words the fastest. Shany Dror is a driving force behind the Genius Dog Challenge, which is live streamed on Facebook and YouTube every week until December 16, when the winner will be announced. The canine challenge […]

    Read more

    Finding Homes For Dogs

    Adoptable Animal Rescue Force gives back to the community by finding the right homes for dogs. We’ve been a Teller County nonprofit, no-kill rescue since 1999. Social networking has allowed us to expand our services in recent years to include dogs coming in from high kill shelters in New Mexico and Texas. There are times […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Retiring

    Talking to police or giving testimony at a courthouse, can be a scary experience for many. Since 2014, service dogs have been allowed in the courtroom to provide emotional support for those in need. For Emery Baert, having Madison with her made a huge difference. “If she wasn’t there, to this day, I wouldn’t know […]

    Read more

    A Shelter Dog's Life

    The sound of paws and claws precedes Isabella’s entrance. She bursts out of the Worcester Animal Rescue League’s front door, dragging Sara McClure, WARL’s dog program coordinator, behind her. McClure has two hands on Izzy’s bright red leash as the pit bull mix comes barreling into the parking lot. McClure motions for me to take […]

    Read more

    Veterans Court Therapy Dog

    Howard County Superior Court II Judge Brant Parry stood in his courtroom last week and looked around like he had lost something. “You want to see her?” he asked, still looking around the mostly empty room. A few moments later, a brown fluff of fur came bounding through an open back door, prompting instant smiles […]

    Read more