MARION (WBSM) — Marion Police are welcoming a new comfort dog to their department and for students at the town's Sippican Elementary School.

Norman, the 13-week-old Labrador retriever, officially joined the department on Friday, June 7. With the new addition, Sippican students were able to vote between three names, with Norman receiving the most votes. Murray came in second, and Franklin came in third.

Marion Police said the initiative is just one of the many ways it hopes to be a positive presence in the community.

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"There were several moving parts to this and so many people to thank including our town officials, Superintendent Nelson, Sippican School faculty and students, DA (Tim) Cruz, Marion Animal Hospital, and of course Officer Tracy," Marion Police Chief Richard Nighelli said. "Our department continues to look for ways to have a positive presence in the community and this initiative is an example of that commitment."

A comfort dog is intended to help connect police with community members to spark conversation and build awareness. People who may be unsure of or uncomfortable with police may be more apt to approach a friendly comfort dog, opening up opportunities to make connections.

Norman will spend most of his time on shifts in the school district with the school resource officer. He will help with de-escalation and provide comfort to children and staff in need who may be experiencing or have experienced trauma.

Once old enough, Norman will attend an 80-hour, 10-day training course consisting of lessons in obedience, socialization, environmental training, auditory training, proprioceptive (motion), and unexpected stimulus training. The training will take place at Professional Canine Services in Middleborough.

After the training program, dogs should be confident, socialized, and environmentally sound. They must also pass the American Kennel Club C.G.C. (Canine Good Citizen) and the A.K.C Temperament Test.

Courtesy of Marion Police Department
Courtesy of Marion Police Department

"Sippican Elementary School is very fortunate to have such strong partnerships supporting education," Superintendent of Schools Michael Nelson said. "To be blunt, the faculty, staff members, and students are absolutely ecstatic, and I am too!"

Norman will also assist with difficult police calls, especially those involving children. He will also regularly visit senior centers, nursing homes, and community events.

Students and officers are anticipating Norman's addition to the community and are eager to see its positive benefits.

"We know that research has shown that there are many benefits of having comfort dogs in elementary schools with children, like helping teach empathy, helping with developing stronger social skills, as well as helping build stronger bonds between students and the school community, just to name a few," Marion School Committee Chair April G. Nye said.

"This new addition will have ways to have a positive presence and I can't wait for our students to have this opportunity," Nye said.

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