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Salute the Badge: A detective and her therapy dog help others - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Salute the Badge: A detective and her therapy dog help others

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Detective Katie Petersen and Dally can be seen making the rounds in Missoula. (MTN News photo) Detective Katie Petersen and Dally can be seen making the rounds in Missoula. (MTN News photo)
MISSOULA -

This report is part of a special series of reports where we get to know our law enforcement and emergency responders on a more personal level.


We meet a detective who protects Missoula's kids from online predators on-shift while spending her off time using her therapy dog to help others in this edition of Salute the Badge.

Detective Katie Petersen has worked with the Missoula Police Department for 16 years. She first worked in patrol and later moved into detectives focusing on crimes against children. She is now assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) at the department.

"My day-to-day, I feel like in a lot of ways I'm kind of hunting the hunters on the internet," Petersen said. "And my day can be anything from conducting a search warrant to sitting in front of a computer typing all day to doing presentations in the community on how to keep our kids safe online."

Petersen leads a very busy life. One of the many things that occupies her off time is her therapy dog Dally -- a McNabb, Kelpie, and Pitbull mix. The breed was originally intended to be a cattle dog but also does great with people. The pair volunteers a couple times a month at Village Health Care in Missoula.

"My father-in-law had been at Village Health Care and so I was familiar with the facility and saw how they treated people here and was very impressed with their facility and so I called them and asked if they might be willing to allow Dally and I to come volunteer so we ran through the motions and found that this was a really good fit for us and it keeps up our skills as a therapy dog team," Petersen said.

Petersen says the most rewarding part of this work, is the interaction between residents and Dally.

"I've run into some residents here who say I'm not a dog person and then next thing I know they're running her ears and kissing her on the head and seeing her make connections with people who may not otherwise be interested in dogs is probably been the neatest thing that I watch on a daily basis," Petersen said.

Petersen has also been working on expanding Dally's role in the community and at the police department. She got the idea from a detective in Florida who uses his therapy dog in his day to day work in victim interviews.

She says the Missoula department isn't there yet but hopes it will be some day soon.

"It would just be fantastic to have her at the police department just for the other officers and the staff there and the constant trauma that we come in contact with so it's something that maybe at some point we'll be able to adopt here in Missoula but at this point we're keeping our skills up and just learning more about the use of a therapy dog in our community," Petersen said.

But for now, the pair is happy keeping their skills sharp and brightening a few days for these residents.

"She's not my therapy dog per say but I will tell you the interaction, watching the interaction between her and residents here is probably just as therapeutic for me as it is for them," Petersen said.

Petersen and Dally went through training and tests with Pet Partners to become a certified therapy team. And although she describes the process as "rigorous", she says it's was definitely worth it.

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