VA Medical Center gets its very own K9 officer

Posted at 10:30 PM, Dec 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-11 23:30:52-05

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's VA Medical Center got a special gift just in time for Christmas. That gift has four legs, lots of love to give, and is the newest member of the VA police force.

Sgt. Richard Burke now patrols hospital hallways with his new partner, Cadence, a 22-month old yellow lab.

They attract a lot of attention, while doing important work.

"We have a lot of patients here who have Alzheimer's and Dementia, and sometimes they get confused and can wander off," Sgt. Burke describes. "Cadence is trained in tracking. She can help track all patients, and keep them safe."

Cadence is also trained in detecting drugs. The VA treats many people battling addiction.

"Our goal is to provide a safer environment for our veterans, and everyone coming through here," Sgt. Burke says. "Five to ten thousand people come through these doors on any given day."

But Cadence doesn't just help make the place safer. She also makes the patients happier.

"She brings a smile to those who need it most," Sgt. Burke says.

Like 85-year-old Korean War veteran, Edward Verville, who's battling cancer.

"It makes me and the guys feel so good to see a dog come in here," he says. "She's a beauty."

They're allowed to interact with Cadence, and pet her.

"The police dog really makes the patients laugh," says Tashinka Williams, a certified nursing assistant. "It's so good to see. Many of these patients suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, addiction, and serious health complications. They've been through a lot. The dog brightens their day."

Sgt. Burke says Cadence has really helped open the lines of communication between VA police officers and patients.

This is the VA Police Department's first canine in more than ten years. They chose a yellow lab, because labs less threatening than many other breeds of police dogs.