A black lab named Lila is on a new type of “paw patrol” at the United States Capitol. Lila was trained as a guide dog in California, but her love for squirrel hunting made her more apt to brighten up people’s day.
The 3-year-old had a lot of work to do after the January 6 riot. Over 150 Capitol Police officers and DC Metropolitan Police Department officersduring the violent attack. Since then, more than 70 officers have left the Capitol Police and four officers who responded to the attack by apparent suicide.
Capitol Police officers Jeff Albanese and Caroline Edwards both worked on the day of the riot. Edwards, overrun by rioters, suffered a head trauma.
“I just remember at one point thinking, my God, this is a war zone,” Edwards said.
The two officers joined the ministry’s new peer support program to help them heal from their injuries. While they have offered their support to their colleagues, sometimes all they need is Lila, who patrols daily around the Capitol to help boost morale. Lila also shows up at events when there is a need – she attended the officer’s roll callbirthday.
“Any problems you have, even if it’s only for a few seconds, go away,” Albanese said.
Edwards described Lila’s support as a “feeling of comfort, of release, of not having to talk about anything.”
Lila’s handler, Dimitri Louis, said everyone smiles when the dog walks into a room.
“Everyone loves a dog. So the dog allows us to start conversations,” Louis said.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information on mental health care resources and support, you can reach the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Hotline Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or by email at info @ nami.org.