Trained seeing eye dog finds job comforting Capitol Police officers suffering in riot's aftermath
A black lab named Lila is on a new kind of "paw patrol" at the U.S. Capitol. Lila was trained as a seeing eye dog in California, but her love of chasing squirrels made her a better fit for the job of brightening people's days.
The 3-year-old canine has had a lot of work to do after the January 6 riot. More than 150 Capitol Police officers and D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured during the violent attack. Since then, more than 70 officers have left the Capitol Police and four officers who responded to the attack died by apparent suicide.
Capitol Police officers Jeff Albanese and Caroline Edwards both worked the day of the riot. Edwards, overrun by rioters, suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"I just remember at one point thinking, my God, this is a war zone," Edwards said.
Both officers joined the department's new peer support program to help them heal from their wounds. While they've been offering support to their colleagues, sometimes all they need is Lila, who does daily patrols around the Capitol to help uplift moods. Lila also shows up at events when there's a need — she attended roll call on officer Brian Sicknick's birthday.
"Any problems you have, even if it's for just a few seconds, disappear," Albanese said.
Edwards described Lila's support as a "sense of comfort, release, not having to talk about anything at all."
Lila's handler Dimitri Louis said everyone smiles when the dog walks into a room.
"Everyone loves a dog. So the dog allows us to start conversations," Louis said.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email email@example.com.
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