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Mass. sheriff organizes convention to support ‘comfort dogs’ for LEOs

Comfort dogs, including the Essex County Sheriff’s Department’s yellow lab “Pasky,” are used to promote mental health among workers and the public

By Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

HAVERHILL, Mass. — When he was a rookie cop in the city of Lynn, Kevin Coppinger said he can imagine that if he started talking about the benefits of having a comfort dog he would have been thrown out of the police station.

But Tuesday, Coppinger, who is now Essex County sheriff, sponsored the first-of-its kind convention for law enforcement comfort dogs from across the region.

Comfort dogs, including the Sheriff’s Department’s yellow lab named “Pasky,” are used to promote calmness, happiness and improved health among workers and the public.

“The number one issue is keeping healthy,” said Coppinger, noting that the comfort dogs “bring a smile to your face.”

With names such as Ella, Ace, Luna, Murph and Sora, the comfort dogs from nine area departments gathered for an initial meet-and-greet at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

The first order of business was a blessing from the Rev. Michael Doyle from Danvers. Doyle, a yellow lab lover himself, said he often jokes his next parish will be “all dogs.”

After praying over the canines, Doyle blessed each dog with holy water, which drew a few barks.

Doyle said he was blessing the dogs over their backs “so God watches their back.”

The dogs and their handlers got to know each other and settled in for lunch Tuesday.

A second law-enforcement canine convention is planned for later this summer and another come fall with an obedience competition.

The get-togethers and training are funded through a grant from Essex County Outreach. Training will be provided by Professional Canine Services of Middleborough.

The sheriff’s dog Pasky is named after Deputy Sheriff Anthony “Pasky” Pasquarello, 37, who died of COVID-19 in December 2021. The Saugus resident was a 15-year veteran of the ECSD.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter/X @EagleTribJill.

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