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Golden retriever joins Wheeling PD to help relieve stress

Wheeling’s police station has a new four-legged resident — one department leaders say diminishes stress during investigations and other emotional situations.

Olive, a 1-year-old golden retriever mix, is a certified facility dog. She lives at the police station and aids officers and social workers, especially on cases involving children.

Not only does Olive’s presence help make anxious people comfortable enough to speak with officers, but she also provides comfort to crime victims and witnesses, officials said.

She also eases the minds of officers and dispatchers, whose jobs are filled with tension.

“She just oozes calm,” Chief Jamie Dunne said.

Olive is something of a public relations ambassador for the department, too, making appearances at schools, community centers and public events.

Other suburban police departments with comfort dogs include those in Buffalo Grove, Bartlett, Streamwood and Elgin. The Cook County and Lake County state attorney’s offices have used comfort dogs to soothe children or people with mental disabilities during interviews and in court.

Olive came aboard full time in August after being trained and certified by Canines 4 Comfort, a nonprofit group based in Round Lake, and a part-time transitionary period. The group also instructed police about working with Olive.

Olive wears a vest that identifies her as a service dog, and her collar bears her name and an American flag.

She has her own room at the station. It’s equipped with a Dutch door, a bed, a feeding schedule and even a nameplate. Funding for the room came from Arlene Caitlung, owner of the Wheeling-based Wabash Power Equipment Co., through the Wheeling Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, officials said.

Even though Olive has her own digs, she much prefers padding around the station and spending time with detectives, officers, dispatchers or other humans.

She has beds and water bowls throughout the building but often crawls under desks. That’s a spot she likes in Crime Prevention Officer Phil Kim’s office.

“I love her,” Kim said. “(She’s) the best office companion I could have.”

Kim is one of three department staffers who have gone through training with Olive. The others are officer Tyler Courtney and social worker Yuritzi Garduno.

Olive’s bed in Garduno’s office is next to a large window that lets her enjoy the view outside.

“She loves hanging here because she can see all the squirrels,” Garduno said.

Any officer or employee may take Olive out for a call or to visit the public. Many enjoy talking to her for walks on their shifts.

“She’s got a family of 100,” Dunne said.

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