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Strafford County sheriff’s office has a new comfort dog

DOVER — The latest deputy joining the ranks of Strafford County Sheriff’s Department is still in training, but is already making history.

Cara, a 13-week-old black labrador puppy, is the department’s first comfort dog.

Police comfort dogs are similar to therapy dogs, serving to comfort people dealing with any kind of stressful situation, like courtroom testimony, forensic interviews, domestic violence situations, mental health situations, or assistance in the schools.

Cara is being trained and certified by the nonprofit Hero Pups to ensure the dog is ready to report for duty full-time upon turning 10 months old. Cara’s name de ella, which is Irish for friend, was chosen by a community poll taken by the department.

Strafford County Sheriff's Deputy Katie O'Brien greets Cara, the department's first comfort dog on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Exeter at the nonprofit Hero Pups.

Deputy Katie O’Brien has been assigned as Cara’s handler. O’Brien is a 12-year veteran of law enforcement. While she has worn many hats over the years, she said she looks forward to spearheading the county’s first police comfort dog program.

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“The presence of a dog can transcend so many things, from differences in cultures, to varying situations or degree of fear,” O’Brien said. “People can see a dog like Cara and instantly feel a calm come over them as they pet her. Cara will be utilized to offer comfort and to help people relax when they may be dealing with a stressful situation or what could be the worst day of their lives.”

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