Castle Rock PD introduces state’s first crisis response police therapy dog

By City of Castle Rock

A four-legged partner responds to help people experiencing mental distress

Buddy the Labrador joined the Castle Rock Police Department (CRPD) as Colorado's first crisis response police therapy dog at the end of Feb., according to a press release from the City of Castle Rock. He accompanies one of the department’s two community response teams (CRTs) comprised of specially trained Officer Tom O’Donnell and clinician Kalie Douberly. Together, they respond to calls involving people in mental distress by helping to "emotionally regulate" the situation, completing clinical assessments and recommending appropriate care to avoid hospitals or jail.

“We have seen the positive impact our Police Therapy Dog program has had in our schools, and we know Buddy will be an extension of our one-by-one policing philosophy when it comes to serving people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Police Chief Jack Cauley.

A white male police officer stands next to a white female therapist in a park
Officer Tom O'Donnell and clinician Kalie Douberly from 2022. Photo by Castle Rock Police Department Instagram account

Buddy is the first police therapy dog to be permanently paired with a co-responder team in Colorado.

“The number of calls for service involving people suffering from a mental health crisis has grown exponentially since our CRT program started,” said Officer O’Donnell. “Throughout his training and first weeks on the job, Buddy has already proven to be an invaluable resource for our team. People can immediately sense his unconditional love, which makes them more receptive to us and the resources we can offer.”

Michael Connors of ConnorsK9 – P.A.W.S., a nonprofit based in Castle Rock, trained Buddy. The dog started his 500 hours of training at 8 weeks of age.

Additionally, O’Donnell and Buddy currently hold several credentials, including a Multi-Discipline Therapy K-9 certification from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office in Florida and Canine Good Citizen Basic, Urban and Advanced titles from the American Kennel Club.

An alert white man with short brown hair and a beard sits with his hands in his lap
Michael Connors. Photo from Connors' website

O’Donnell and Buddy mark CRPD's fourth police therapy dog team. In April 2021, CRPD became the first police department in the state to permanently pair a school resource officer (SRO) with a certified therapy dog. Currently, the department has three SRO-therapy dog teams. 

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