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Meet Baxter, Maine's first 'comfort dog' to support first responders

Baxter's "mission" is to provide "mood-boosting benefits" to first-line responders, who have to remain calm and quick while handling stress and trauma every day.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Bureau of Emergency Communications in Augusta is welcoming its new four-legged, tail-wagging member to the team.

Baxter, the 5-month-old chocolate Lab, will be the first comfort dog in the state for Maine's three Emergency Communication Centers, according to a release issued Thursday by Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss.

According to the release, Baxter's "mission" is to help provide "mood-boosting benefits" to first-line responders, as day in and day out they have to remain calm and quick while handling stress and trauma.

"We are excited to bring Baxter, the first Comfort Dog, to Maine and, I believe, New England,” Brodie Hinckley, the Maine Bureau of Emergency Communications director, said in the release. “Baxter will be part of our Dispatch Family and provide daily support for our first responders, the Emergency Telecommunicators. You can tell how much a dog has a therapeutic role and can de-escalate stressful situations while providing unconditional love and support to the crew on some of their most challenging days just by being present in the center."

Posted by Maine Department of Public Safety Communications on Tuesday, September 13, 2022

To make it happen, the bureau partnered with a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that's based out of New Hampshire called Hero Pups.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Maine Bureau of Emergency Communications and happy Brodie Hinckley found another way to help his community and staff,” Laura Barker, founder of Hero Pups, said in the release. “Brodie is the perfect person to be the handler for this pup and we look forward to working with him as we train Baxter.”

The release said Hero Pups works to train and pair dogs with first responders and veterans, working with mainly shelter and rescue dogs. The first responders and veterans are incorporated into the dogs' on-site training.

In addition to partnering with Hero Pups, the bureau was also able to receive Baxter thanks to AT&T.

Posted by Maine Department of Public Safety Communications on Tuesday, September 13, 2022

“The dedicated women and men of Maine’s Emergency Communications Centers are public safety’s first line of response,” Owen Smith, president of AT&T Maine, said in the release. “They deal with traumatic events, often one after another, daily. That’s where Baxter comes in. With just a wag of his tail, this incredible pup will help decrease stress, boost morale, improve coping and so much more. He’s going to make a major impact at the Maine Bureau of Emergency Communications and in communities across the state."

Baxter hasn't yet made his debut at the bureau yet, as he is still finishing up his training at Hero Pups. According to the release, Baxter will continue training until he reaches a year old in April. Then, he will finally begin his duties to brighten up the days of our state's first responders.

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