The catastrophic collapse of the Champlain tower also devastated the lives of local first responders who were among the first to arrive at the rubble. Surfside PD officers were among the first to arrive — hearing the cries of those underneath the rubble, feeling helpless, unable to reach them.
The hours, days, and months that passed since that horrible day have been anything but easy for these officers who worked tirelessly to save as many people as they could. So, deeply concerned by their mental health, the Town of Surfside turned to K9s For Warriors, the country’s largest organization rescuing dogs from shelters and giving them the necessary training to serve as certified service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI and military sexual assault trauma. K9s has rescued over 1,500 dogs and paired more than 750 of them with veterans from around the country.
But for those dogs who are not fully suited to being a service canine for veterans, they still can provide hope and healing. These Station Dogs are donated to police, fire, and EMT programs and are able to support first responders, who have alarmingly high rates of suicide and suicide ideation, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Earlier this year, the Town of Surfside Manager Andrew Hyatt, Chief Rogelio Torres, and Captain Antonio Marciante introduced Officer Mike to the law enforcement team and then K9s For Warriors did something amazing…they donated Mike, the fluffy Goldendoodle and retired Service Dog, to the Town of Surfside.
Recognized as a therapy dog through the American Kennel Club, Officer Mike is providing relief, love, laughter and a needed distraction for the department and town. The town brought him in as an unconventional tool to help mitigate signs and symptoms of PTSD amongst their officers and they have already seen an immense positive impact on the officers, first responders and staff.
During meetings following the collapse, he has been there for victims’ families and for the officers on tough days, including community members.
On June 21, three days before the one-year anniversary of the Surfside tragedy, The Town of Surfside and K9s For Warriors will formally introduced Officer Mike to the community in a ceremony at Veterans Park, across the street from the Champlain tower. Here are some more photos:
about the author
Brandie Ahlgren is founder and editor of CityDog Magazine. She, and her team of dog-loving editors, dig up the best places for you to sit, stay and play with your four-legged friends. Brandie, 12-year-old boxer Thya and Mexican foster failure Pancho, reside in West Seattle and can often be found hanging out at Westcrest Dog Park.