Northampton Police Department’s newest recruit provides comfort in school

  • Douglas, a type of goldendoodle and member of the Northampton Police Department, reports for his first day on Monday as a comfort dog at Northampton High School where he will work under School Resource Officer Joshua Wallace.  SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Douglas, a type of goldendoodle and member of the Northampton Police Department, is pictured next to his owner, Joshua Wallace after earning his Canine Good Citizenship certification on Dec. 12. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 9:59:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — His name is Douglas and he is trained to comfort.

The 7-month-old goldendoodle dog has joined Northampton High School Resource Officer Joshua Wallace for his first week of work, and his “great personality” has already been a hit with students at the high school and John F. Kennedy Middle School.

“He is still a young puppy, and I anticipated some puppy behavior, but with the kids he’s been absolutely fantastic,” Wallace said Wednesday afternoon.

As a poodle and golden retriever mix, Wallace said Douglas has the hair and intelligence of a poodle as well as the people-pleasing personality of a golden retriever.

“He is a very soft, tactile petting dog,” said Wallace, noting his non-shedding coat. “It’s scientifically proven to lower stress levels.”

Animal-assisted therapy research findings from UCLA state that the simple act of petting animals releases automatic relaxation responses from people, and on a chemical level, that means the release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin — all hormones that help elevate moods.

At the high school, Wallace and Douglas met with students with disabilities who took an immediate liking to the young pup, Wallace said.

“One of the students got on the ground and Douglas got on the ground and let him play with him and rub him,” Wallace said. “I was paying attention to how he would behave, and even with a lot of high energy, he didn’t get super excited. He lay down and let students rub his belly.”

Douglas joined the Northampton Police Department in August and has trained since then to acquire his Canine Good Citizenship certification.

Northampton Police Chief Jody D. Kasper said that “a significant portion of (Wallace’s) job includes talking to kids that need someone to talk to and would benefit from the presence of a comfort dog.”

Wallace splits his weeks between the high school and JFK, giving students in both buildings access to Douglas, Kasper said.

She added that Douglas won’t be limited to those two buildings.

“We are pretty open with how Douglas will be used in the community,” Kasper said. “He is a great community service dog and people want to meet him. It gives us an opportunity to have conversations with people that might not normally sit and chat with us.”

Wallace, who purchased Douglas himself, is the dog’s owner and he will care for the young pup during his service with the police department.

As an F1B goldendoodle, Douglas is the most hypoallergenic of all goldendoodle breeds, according to the Goldendoodle Association of North America, making him an ideal comfort dog.

Wallace is also part of a regional peer support team through the state’s Critical Instant Stress Management program, where public safety officials can receive assistance following traumatic events, Kasper said, and Douglas will be available for that program as well.

Kasper said Douglas makes the “perfect pairing” with Wallace.

On Tuesday, a girl at the high school visited Wallace and Douglas and said she was having a bad day and was considering leaving to go home.

After spending some time with the curly-haired companion, she decided to finish the day at school.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at
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