July 9, 2020
When a dog comes into the room how can you not light up? That’s the idea behind a therapy dog program with a twist. Therapy dogs are making visits to stations throughout the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD Therapy Dog Program is for first responders by first responders.
Scout was a welcome sight at LAPD’s Pacific Division.
The black dog arrived at the station with retired LAPD detective Gil Escontrias, now a reserve officer and canine expert. He’s been training therapy and support dogs under his company Blue Line Dogs LA for years. When he was a detective, Escontrias first brought in dog therapy to the LAPD when he worked internet crimes against children. He says it was “psychological first aid” for officers who witnessed child molestations. The early push in 2020 was to boost morale at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. LAPD Lt. Mario Mota says there has been a big focus on mental and physical health for officers. These have been tough times given the pandemic and the protests.
Escontrias’ wife is retired LAPD Lt. Susan Willis. She too has a therapy dog, named Inta.
They’ve also trained volunteers and have 13 dogs ready to work or receive a friendly scratch or pat on the head.