There’s no doubt guarding the U.S. capital is a difficult job. Now Capitol Police are seeking to combat officer stress with the help of a 3-year-old lab, Lila, the department’s new “peer support dog.”
Lila joined the department in June as part of a broader push to provide Capital Police with greater support and resources. “It really is just a godsend,” one USCP officer, Jeffrey Albanese, told CNN. “We’ve all had bad days. The minute a dog walks into a room, even for a minute, you kind of forget about it.”
Another officer described how Lila–who began her career as a seeing eye dog before chasing too many squirrels reportedly led to reassignment–helps officers cope with the most difficult parts of their jobs.
“She has helped with hard events that we have had,” said USCP Officer Caroline Edwards, recalling how the black lab helped comfort officers grieving the death of their colleague, Brian Sicknick. “We brought her to roll call for his shift, and it just kind of helps people forget for a little bit,” said Edwards, who was also injured in the Jan 6 attack.
Of course, Lila isn’t the only therapy dog working on Capitol Hill, where comfort dogs attended the funeral for another fallen officer, William “Billy” Evans, in April.
“They had dozens of support dogs there that day and they were just going through the line and for a moment, you weren’t at another officer’s funeral, you were petting a dog,” said Officer Edwards. “To me, that’s been the most significant thing having them there at those events like that just helps to ease the sadness, and it makes you think of something good.”
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Lila frequently works with Leo, a 4-year-old golden lab and fellow peer support dog. Together the loving duo helps lighten the mood by greeting officers with tail wags, cuddles, kisses, and other markers of canine affection. In addition to easing stress and anxiety, Lila and Leo leave officers more relaxed and open to asking for help.
Tonight two of our USCP officers are talking to the TV networks about the hard work our Department has done building a new peer support program.
And of course— wellness dog Lila makes a cameo 🐶. pic.twitter.com/YI65Q2N6tM
— U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) October 13, 2021
“She serves a dual role,” Lila’s caretaker, Dimitri Louis, told CNN. “She helps to lower anxiety and helps with emotional well-being in general, but she also very good at helping us promote some of the other wellness resources that we have available for the department. … She allows us to go places that we normally otherwise wouldn’t go, have conversations that we normally otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Good girl, Lila! Keep up the good work.
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