GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Police Department employee is training a future service dog while on the job at the dispatch center.
For more than eight years, Bethany Pipping has worked 12-hour shifts at GRPD as a dispatcher. In March, she decided to get involved with Paws With A Cause.
“I have a good friend who’s been a foster parent raiser for the last couple years, and watching her do it and seeing her go through the process kind of inspired me and made me realize that I can do it too, so I decided to sign up,” Pipping said.
Aggie is a playful 5-month-old black lab and golden retriever mix.
“She’s still learning how to interact with people appropriately,” Pipping said. “She’s obviously very little and she gets very excited meeting new people, so for her to be able to learn that here is helpful. For her to be able to entertain herself, I’ve always been amazed at her ability to do that thus far.”
It’s the first time a dog has been allowed to accompany a dispatcher during a 12-hour shift at GRPD.
“It’s been interesting, but we’ve got a lot of people who love dogs here, too, so they’ve been very supportive and very helpful. A lot of my coworkers were excited. They’re not so happy about the fact that they can’t interact with her like I do,” Pipping said.
“Here at the Grand Rapids Police Department, we support Paws With A Cause’s mission and what they are striving to do for our disabled population here in the community. We are all behind Bethany being able to raise this young puppy. We wanted to try it on a trial basis and we needed and wanted all the dispatcher’s approval before we allowed her to do this, so they allowed it and agreed to it and we’re able to support Bethany in this effort,” Sgt. Terry Dixon, GRPD’s public information officer, said.
Pipping said she is grateful the department allowed her to raise Aggie in the dispatch center.
“Without GRPD allowing me to bring her here, I wouldn’t have been able to be a foster puppy raiser. We work long shifts, which we’re used to, but I wouldn’t be able to get away,” Pipping said. “She’s a little puppy and learning how to be potty trained and learning how to be in an environment like this, it would be hard for me to have to deal with that and go back and forth and I wouldn’t be able to and still do my job at the same time.”
Pipping said that at times, it can be difficult raising a puppy in the dispatch center.
“If I’m dispatching for example and I hear something that’s really big coming to my screen like a structure assignment, structure fire that I’ll have to deal with, I’ll quick bring her to her crate just so that I’m not distracted by her so that I can completely focus on my job,” Pipping said.
There are a number of skills Aggie will learn while being raised at the center, according to Paws With A Cause.
“It’s absolutely wonderful that GRPD allows the future assistance dog in here to learn all of these things in the work setting, because the lessons are different than in a home environment,” said Paws With A Cause Community Outreach Manager Deb Davis. “There’s a lot future assistance dogs can learn in a dispatch center such as here in the Grand Rapids Police Department, such as patience. 80 percent of an assistance dog’s future life is going to be waiting for the next command, so learning how to go under the desk, how to stay, how to get up when it’s time to, how to self-entertain, chew their bone and know and pay attention to their handler so they can be attentive to that client when they get older.”
Aggie will complete her training with Pipping next summer and will then start specialized training.
“It will be very tough, for sure. I don’t look forward to that day, but she’s destined for much bigger things,” Pipping said.
Pipping hopes to raise a new puppy once Aggie has completed training.
“There’s so many people who are looking for assistance dogs and we have so many families that are foster puppy raisers. There’s a sense of me being able to do something completely for someone else,” Pipping said. “Me having her here is not for me. I’m privileged to be able to have her and spend time with her, but she’s not for me. She’s intended for bigger things, and to be even just a small part of being able to chance someone’s life like that is just an amazing experience.”