San Marcos Police Department adds therapy dog in training to staff

The San Marcos Police Department welcomed a new officer to the team and he is already stealing hearts all over the city. 

He was brought to the department by Mental Health Officer Joyce Bender, a self-proclaimed dog lover. 

“Because they don't judge, they're just there to be there for you,” Bender said.  

Knowing the difference her five dogs made in her life, she had an idea. Bender started looking into whether one of her pups could work as a therapy dog for the police department. 

“I've always liked the dogs and I've heard that dogs can relieve the stress and anxiety of people, and, being on the mental health unit, I figured let’s do some research and see if this is a thing,” said Bender.  

It was a thing at other departments in the country, but Bender found no Texas police departments with a therapy dog on staff. It didn't take much effort to convince her superiors to test it out. 

“Well, it was an easy sell for me anyway because I'm a dog person myself as well, but when officer Bender pitched the idea to us, it just made complete sense,” said San Marcos Chief of Police Chase Stapp.  

The department agreed Bender's 13-month-old border collie mix was the dog for the job. 

“He's very approachable, very sweet, mild mannered, seems to like being petted, but not crave the attention, so he just seems to be perfect for it,” Stapp said.  

That's how Sheldon Cooper became San Marcos Police Department's first therapy dog in training. No, not the Sheldon Cooper from the hit show The Big Bang Theory, although, the tv character did play a part in the naming process. 

“So that's where his name came from. Just don't ask him to explain the string theory,” said Bender.   

Sheldon has already successfully responded to a few mental health calls with Bender. 
                
“Just to have somebody touch the dog, it tends to relieve the stress and the pressure and it tends to let the people open up a little bit more to you after a while,” Bender said.  

Although Sheldon’s original purpose was to help calm victims or witnesses, officers have seen the benefits of a little extra puppy love as well. 

“Being a police officer's not an easy job, and that wasn't the intended purpose, but the cops around the building and the dispatchers and the other employees love seeing Sheldon,” said Stapp. 
                
“He's just a welcomed addition to our family here,” he added.  
                
Next week Bender and Sheldon will attend an academy in Florida that trains therapy dogs to help child assault victims. 
                
Stapp said they plan to make the program long term.

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