Shelter Dog Bruno Becomes Indiana’s First Law Enforcement Comfort Dog
When the sheriff of Lake County, Ind., adopted Bruno from an animal shelter four years ago, the two-year-old American Bulldog was in really bad shape. He had been beaten. He was skinny, malnourished and in serious need of medical care.
Bruno was nursed back to health by members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Among them was Joe Hamer, a deputy who became Bruno’s handler, mainly because the dog liked to follow him around most of all. But Bruno needed to have a job to do.
Hamer, chairman of Indiana’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Critical Incident Memorial Team, had an idea. Bruno was calm and caring. He had the perfect personality to become a comfort dog for law enforcement officers, first responders, and their families.
“That was the whole concept. We didn’t know of any dogs specifically for law enforcement,” Hamer told the Chicago Tribune. “And that’s when he became Sheriff Bruno.” The former shelter dog was likely the first law enforcement comfort dog in the state of Indiana.
As a comfort dog, Bruno’s duties include providing support for police officers having bad days on the job, and for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. Bruno attends the funerals of fallen two- and four-legged police officers.
“He will actually gravitate toward people when they are sad. When they cry he goes to them,” Hamer told WSBT. “That is not something that we taught him. That is just him. He does all that on his own. He reacts that way.”
After working in Lake County for a couple of years, Hamer and Bruno moved to Missouri in 2017 when Hamer became the program director for Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a nonprofit that helps the families and co-workers of fallen police officers rebuild their lives.
Earlier this year, Hamer and Bruno joined the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department in Missouri. Sheriff Bill Redman knew Hamer as a fellow member of the FOP Critical Incident Memorial Team. He was also aware of Bruno’s amazing qualities and wanted the dog to join his department.
“Seeing Bruno do his work, bringing joy to the family members, especially the children, I knew he would be beneficial to our community,” Redman told the Chicago Tribune.
Hamer said Bruno is the best dog he’s ever had in his lifetime. I believe it — Bruno reminds me a lot of my late, great Leroy Brown, who was also a Bulldog mix and one of my best dogs ever. Good ol’ Leroy reacted the very same way whenever someone was crying or otherwise stressed out and in need of some furry consolation.
Bruno, Hamer told the Chicago Tribune, “has the most amazing attitude for a dog that was abused, beaten and neglected. The way he has changed his life has been amazing.”
Bruno was born on May 15, which happens to be National Law Enforcement Memorial Day. For the first time ever this year, a dog had the honor of placing a flower at the Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington, D.C., in memory of K9 officers killed in the line of duty. That dog was Bruno.
“I don’t know how to explain the reaction people have to him,” Hamer told the Chicago Tribune. “He has this spirit about him that everyone sees.”
You can see Bruno’s spirit (and send him a friend request!) on his Facebook page.
Photo credit: Sheriff Bruno/Facebook