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Waterford police introduce service dog Hodges to the community

Waterford — There's a new police officer in town and he likes belly rubs.

The town's police department introduced Hodges, its new service and comfort dog, to seniors Wednesday at the community center. About 35 seniors were gathered in the dining room to meet Hodges for Senior Services' Lunch and Learn, an event put on quarterly to educate seniors on topics that may affect them.

Eric Fredricks, the police department's community outreach officer, said this is the first of many community events for the roughly 2-year-old black Labrador, who also will serve as a comfort dog for the department.

"First responders deal with a lot of stress," Fredricks said. "Even having him walk through the department brightens everyone's day."

Kathy Pierce, assistant director of Senior Services, said her agency often collaborates with other town departments for Lunch and Learn. "It's important to keep seniors in the know of what is happening in the community and about safety," she said.

Before letting Hodges roam around the room to meet everyone, Fredricks made a short presentation to the seniors about different department programs and explained several senior citizen-related crimes, such as car thefts, domestic abuse and phone scams.

Fredricks then spoke about Hodges and how the department acquired him for $3,000 with donations through a nonprofit called Puppies Behind Bars in New York, which trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded military veterans and first responders. As his handler, Fredricks spent the past two weeks in New York with Hodges for training, learning how to do several commands.

Fredricks joked that when he first met Hodges, he thought he was "broken" because he was so calm. But he said he loves that about Hodges and it will be an especially useful quality whenever the dog is assisting with certain active calls.

One senior in attendance was particularly excited about seeing Hodges, getting up at the slightest chance to pet him.

Margaret Ormond said she is a dog enthusiast, having always had dogs of her own. She said she is thrilled to see dogs like Hodges have a positive impact on the community. In the past, Ormond has served on the Board of Police Commissioners and the board of the Humane Society.

"I applaud the department for having him (Hodges) and providing contact with senior citizens," she said.

Fredricks said residents can expect to see Hodges at holiday and community events. He already has a couple of events scheduled for February, meeting seniors and veterans in the community.

Residents also can follow Hodges on his Instagram account, @k9ofc_hodges_waterfordpd.

j.vazquez@theday.com

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