In Irving, a special dog named Ritter works for the Police Department and helps fight crime in a very quiet way. Ritter works at the department’s Family Advocacy Center (FAC). The FAC offers counseling and education classes for parenting, as well as services for overcoming domestic violence, trauma from crime victimization and child abuse. The FAC also provides play therapy counseling for children victimized by abuse and domestic violence. The laid-back 3-year-old Labrador retriever’s job at the FAC is to calm child victims of violent crime by helping them feel safe.
“Many of the children we see at the FAC are stressed and traumatized,” Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey said. “You can see them relax as they spend time with Ritter.”
Ritter is trained to engage at the level where children are comfortable. He will sit at their feet and be quiet, or he will get up on the couch and put his head on their laps.
“When Ritter walks in to meet the kids, their faces light up,” Spivey said. “He gives the kids and the counselors something to talk about, which helps establish rapport.”
Canine Companions for Independence trained Ritter, who completed an extensive training protocol by the time he was 2½ years old. Ritter’s FAC handler was required to take written and field exams to become certified to help people in need.
The super-smart pup joined the Irving Police Department in October and by the end of this year will have helped about 150 children at the FAC.
“His third birthday is coming up, and I’m sure we will throw quite a party for him,” Spivey said. “He’s a dog who makes everyone feel good, and it’s amazing what he can do to help children start their healing process.”