BUFFALO GROVE, IL — The police department has a shaggy new member. “Gus,” a 4-year-old white Labrador retriever/standard poodle mix, recently joined the Buffalo Grove Police Department as a therapy dog.
Brittany Wilson, who has worked as a social worker with the police since 2016, introduced Gus to the Buffalo Grove Village Board at a recent meeting.
“I am thrilled to be part of a program that gives comfort to those who are experiencing a range of challenges or trauma,” she said. “Gus will provide a truly valuable service to the Buffalo Grove community.”
Wilson is also a member of the police department’s crisis intervention team and officer peer support program.
In 2018, Wilson first introduced the idea of adding a therapy dog to the department. She found a non-profit organization that provides therapy dogs to law enforcement agencies, but was put on a three-year waiting period. In addition, the pandemic slowed down the process and Wilson needed to look elsewhere.
She eventually found Paws and Stripes, a nonprofit that has been providing fully-trained therapy dogs to police departments, along with handler training, at no cost, since 2006. Facilitated by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Titusville, Florida, the program pairs trained and carefully selected jail inmates with shelter dogs who are trained to provide therapy services with law enforcement. All dogs selected receive basic obedience training and are screened for temperament and behavioral characteristics.
Wilson and Gus recently took a 40-hour advanced training course through Paws and Stripes at the end of 2021, to become certified as nationally registered therapy dog team members.
“[Brittany] is a vital component to the police department and is instrumental in providing the highest caliber of services due to her clinical experience, advanced training and being a trusted resource,” Deputy Chief Michael Szos said.
Szos also lauded Wilson’s work in helping hundreds of clients in various matters, including domestic disputes, child custody disagreements, housing concerns and mental health issues.
Gus will assist with public relations and community engagement, in addition to helping with victim’s advocacy, mental health and trauma response, according to police. He will also be a valuable resource to first responders dealing with the stress and impact of experiences on the job, while supporting department members with overall wellness.
Buffalo Grove police said many local businesses have contributed donations for Gus’ routine care and ongoing training.
“Gus is very much supported within this community,” Wilson said. “We are just so grateful for Gus and the smiles he brings on a daily basis, not just for myself, but for the officers and my clients. It’s priceless.”