Pittsburgh police’s comfort dog is a ‘gift’ out of tragedy
The journey of a 10-week-old golden retriever puppy to the Pittsburgh police began in the aftermath of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, and so his name, Zane, is only fitting.
“Zane” is Hebrew for “gift” and “prayed for.”
“After the events of Tree of Life, we brought in canine first responders for our debriefings,” said Zone 4 Sgt. Carla Kearns. “You saw the warmth and the growth of our officers in opening up, accepting the debriefing and accepting support from our peer support team, where sometimes officers tend to shut that out a little bit.”
Kearns and Zone 4 Community Outreach Officer Victoria Butch — Zane’s handler — are members of the bureau’s peer support team, the Pittsburgh Member Assistance Program. Members of the support team are trained in crisis intervention, and offer fellow officers a confidential place to talk about trauma and other professional and personal problems and concerns.
“We said why not have our own canine here,” Kearns said. “(It’s) not only to help our officers through a critical incident and through a traumatic event, but also for the community — for the community to come together with us and share in our joy with the dog.”
Zane’s name came after extensive research by Butch.
“We did a lot of soul-searching as to how to name the puppy,” Kearns said. “‘Zane’ is Hebrew for ‘gift and prayed for,’ and we talked about it and we thought that that was very fitting after the events of Tree of Life.”
Because Butch is trained in crisis intervention, she also can work with victims of violent crime during interviews as well. The comfort dog can help victims through an experience, which helps both the victim as well as detectives, who rely on details to further investigations.
For now, the pup is still in training. He gets his final set of shots later this month, and then he’ll begin obedience training. At around 6 months old, he’ll start his therapy dog training. Butch said they won’t be attending any community events until Zane has some training under his belt.
Butch said officer reaction to Zane has been positive – mostly.
“Even if maybe they grumble behind doors that they don’t like it when Zane’s there, how can you not want to pet this dog and feel a little better between calls?” she said.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .