MONTROSE, N.Y. -- Those at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Montrose have a friend that helps them heal in a different way.
Their friend isn't giving them physical therapy or any kind of medication, instead, the friend is providing plenty of licking and panting and slobbery kisses.
The friend, of course, is Hunter, a police dog, who loves working with veterans, helping them heal, and is only impaired by the length of his leash that's held by his handler, VA police Sgt. Josie Graham.
Hunter, a large black Labrador retriever, "works" at healing in two hospitals and seven clinics of the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System. But while all the licks and kissing are going on, Hunter and Graham are also performing another, more important, mission for the VA police: deterrence.
Hunter’s primary job involves his sniffer. With a keen nose and about six months worth of training, Hunter helps find patients who may wander away from the Montrose inpatient facilities. He also searches VA grounds and facilities for cocaine, heroin and other narcotics.
“The visual presence of the canine is just as valuable as helping to find narcotics,” Graham said. “If they’re up to no good and see the dog, they usually turn the other way.”
Graham, an Army veteran from Newburgh, has been a dog handler for about seven years and has been working with Hunter since 2014 after he received two months of narcotics training from the Yonkers Police Department and his patrol skills from the town of Poughkeepsie Police Department.
Graham said she knows the work she’s doing has an impact. She told the story of her sister attending the 2015 funeral of a veteran who lived in one of VA Hudson Valley’s Community Living Centers. When the funeral services ended, the family approached Graham’s sister.
“They wanted her to thank me for bringing by Bayne to his room because the veteran loved when he came by,” Graham said. “When you do those things, sometimes you don’t realize the impact. Sometimes I think I was meant to do this. It really changes your life.”
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