RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s a furry new recruit at the Rio Rancho Police Department. A puppy named Rio has joined the department to serve as a therapy dog for staff and the public. 

Wednesday marks one week since Rio joined the force. The 10-week Schnoodle is currently in basic puppy training, but once she’s ready, she will be there when officers meet with crime victims. “You don’t realize it, but when she comes up to you, you just start petting her, and all of a sudden you’re like “wow, I feel better,” says detective Kimberly Hopper. 

Story continues below:

Detective Kimberly Hopper works in the Special Victims Unit and hopes to have Rio there will not only comfort people but make them feel at ease talking to officers.  “I think she kind of has a bright future ahead of her, and I think just the idea of having a therapy dog in the police you know, life is simply amazing. I totally think it’s gonna be a game changer for everyone,” says detective Hopper.   

Detective Hopper says she met with a family-owned breeder and hand-selected Rio to join the team.  

As a part of her training, Rio Rancho officers have been working hand in hand with BCSO and their canine therapy program. 

They also hope Rio will help show a softer side of police to the public and boost morale in the department. “Everybody seems much happier and they just love to interact with her and just to socialize with her,” says detective Hopper.  

Detective Hopper says one of the hardest parts of the job is the puppy training and keeping people from getting overly excited with Rio’s cuteness, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.  

“The best thing is, I get to work with a puppy. I mean, it’s very exciting. I get to bring her to work with me everyday and just see how she really is making a difference,” says detective Hopper. 

Rio’s name was selected after suggestions from community members. Police say the therapy program has been almost five years in the making. They say if Rio does well, then they hope to bring on two or three more therapy dogs.