SURFSIDE, Fla. – Surfside Police are still feeling the pain nearly one year since the deadly Champlain Tower South collapse. But in the wake of the tragedy, a new member of the force is helping to bring at least a little bit of joy.
“We’ve responded to that building for calls for service. Our officers knew people, personally knew people that lived there. And that’s been probably the toughest thing,” said Captain Antonio Marciante of the Surfside Police Department.
Marciante said that a new member of the force has created a bond with the Surfside police community.
“When they brought Mike out, I can’t explain it. There was just an . . . immediate bond,” he said.
He is talking about K9 Officer Mike, who joined the department six months ago and was introduced to the public on Tuesday.
The 1½-year-old Snickerdoodle, a cross between a Maltese and a poodle, is a retired service dog and is now serving as a “station dog” bringing smiles to the faces of officers still processing the pain.
“They come to the station to drop off paperwork or do whatever and then they have to go back out to the road. They’ll come in and do whatever they need to do, and they’ll find Mike,” Marciante said.
Officer Mike came to the department through the K9s for Warriors program, which links therapy dogs with disabled veterans suffering from PTSD.
“We’ve placed 16 station dogs so far across the state of Florida, 13 of those are with police stations, 3 of them are with fire stations,” said Rory Diamond, the CEO of K9s for Warriors.
“And what we’re seeing with these veterans is their happiness goes up, the amount of prescription drugs they use goes down, and they’re able to get back out into the world again,” Diamond said.
After hearing about the Surfside tragedy, the program’s CEO decided to donate Mike to the town’s police department to help provide comfort and hopefully some relief.
“First responders, they can’t have a service dog with them every single day but we can place a therapy dog in the station. Then they get a little bit of that every single day, small doses of a dog that makes you laugh, makes you smile, you get to pet him and it slowly, without you even knowing it, takes some of the stress off,” Diamond said.
Marciante has taken a shine to Mike, too. “I call the midnight sergeant every night.. Almost like a little kid, just to check up on him. Has he been walked? Has he been fed? . . . He’s like a baby. When I go home and he’s not with me, it’s different. He’ll be two in December, he’s really still a puppy.”
A move that already seems to be making a difference.
“Officers that maybe had a bad call or a bad day, you know, they get a smile, they smile when they touch Mike. And that interaction is 30 seconds, and then they’re back out on the road. You see it in their face. You know, they come in and they pet him and there’s a smile on their face. It’s incredible.
Diamond of “K9s for Warriors” says it’s his goal to place at least one station dog at every single fire and police station across the state.