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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Effective Both Inside and Outside the School:
PPD’s Sunny is Top Dog; K9 Sunny awarded highest honor by AKC
Sunny, the Perry Police Department’s therapy dog, has received a gold medal from the American Kennel Club. The award, the highest recognition from the AKC, denotes that Sunny is a “Distinguished” therapy dog.

“The unfortunate reality is a lot of the time, we see people at their worst. Anything that allows us to connect with our community makes a difference. We’re fortunate that our community has supported our therapy dog program, which has made incredible personal connections with our residents,” said Chief Michael Grover.

The therapy dog program, Grover said, has allowed the department to connect with the community’s “most important residents, kids.” Sunny, a 4-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, is certified as an investigative police therapy dog and is partnered full-time with Officer Matt Masci, who serves as the school resource officer for the Perry Central School District.

In their partnership with the school district, Sunny and Masci are often called upon in situations involving counseling, emotional distress, grief, or simply to brighten someone’s day. Masci said that “Look, it’s Sunny!” is an expression heard through the halls all day and students line up to greet Sunny as he travels around campus.

Masci is also a certified D.A.R.E. instructor, which puts him and his K9 partner in classroom settings each day. When students can’t be in the presence of their furry friend, they may fill the void with Sunny coloring pages, bookmarks, books and even trading cards. The Perry district has 768 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

On Friday, Masci received documentation from the AKC recognizing Sunny as an AKC Distinguished Therapy Dog. Sunny is a rescued canine and a graduate of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’s Paws & Stripes College in Florida and is certified as a law enforcement investigative therapy dog, a multi-discipline therapy dog, and an AKC Canine Good Citizen.

Outside the school walls, Sunny is a visible presence at many community events and often accompanies Masci on regular patrol. When asked about his role outside of PCS, Masci says, “The logic is actually the same. Just like kids, bringing a dog into an emotional situation completely changes the dynamic” when referring to mental health evaluations and other emotional or traumatic events.

“If nothing else, dogs are good listeners,” Masci said. “People may not want to talk to me or any other figure of authority when they’re upset, but they might pour their heart out to a dog.”
By BEN BEAGLE - ben@livingstonnews.com

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