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Through a donation from SCHEELS and partnership with West Fargo Public Schools, the West Fargo Police Department is about to introduce the first comfort dog and School Resource Officer (SRO) team in the state of North Dakota.
"SCHEELS is pleased to partner with the West Fargo Police Department on such a special, inaugural program," said Caryn Olson Marketing Leader, Fargo SCHEELS. "This dog will be a great addition to our schools and our community!"
The comfort dog will assist elementary SRO Todd Pearson in his role fostering positive relationships with students, parents, faculty and staff. With the addition of a comfort dog, SRO Pearson will help students struggling with anxiety and depression, improve student morale and increase overall positive interactions. This is especially imperative currently, as students are facing new and continuing challenges in their social lives, academics, mental health and overall well-being.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and students or residents through the comfort dog program,” said SRO Todd Pearson. “Having a comfort dog present can help students and community members open up about mental health or other concerns.”
The two will also assist with public events, community outreach, traumatic incidents, and additional crisis response incidents.
“Our SROs often serve as informal counselors, making this pairing the perfect addition to our community outreach efforts,” said West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness. “I’d like to thank SRO Pearson for spearheading this idea to better serve our students and community, and SCHEELS for their support that made this possible.”
The comfort dog will join the Community Outreach Programs and Services Unit, assigned to SRO Pearson. The comfort dog will also be utilized in officer wellness programs including involvement with the Peer Assistance Crisis Team.
"West Fargo Public Schools is excited to explore the additional options a comfort dog will provide staff when working with students," said Heather Leas, Director of Health, Safety and Public Relations West Fargo Public Schools. "Whether it's for motivation, engagement, positive behavior support or working through strong emotions, the comfort dog should be an excellent addition to our SRO program. We are grateful to SRO Pearson and the department leadership for including the district in this innovative adventure!"
The West Fargo Police Department will work with West Fargo Public Schools to proactively address issues related to students’ allergies or fears. The department is working to identify a comfort dog and ensure it has met the training and testing requirements.
The West Fargo Police Department would like to thank SCHEELS for their generous donation and continued support of the department’s community engagement efforts.