Local support dogs flown to Uvalde to help kids, officers – Redlands Daily Facts

Just last week, police support dogs Nellie and Misha were receiving pets from hundreds of Garden Grove students.

By Wednesday, they were in Uvalde, Texas, comforting students from Robb Elementary School. It was there, earlier this week, that a gunman killed 19 children and two adults.

“Within the first 10 seconds of walking in, I had two boys running over to pet the dogs,” said Garden Grove Police School Resource Officer Derek Link.

“One of them, he was probably a first-grader, said, ‘You heard about the shooting’? I said, ‘Yes. That was scary.’ Then he goes right back to petting the dogs and talking about his own dog,” Link described.

Link and his fellow officer, Patrick Julienne, were flown to Texas early Wednesday with their dogs, Nellie, an English black Labrador, and Misha, a white retriever. The dogs were recently introduced by Garden Grove Unified and local police as part of a new program to provide social-emotional support for students.

A benefactor of the program, former Garden Grove resident Paul Massingill, who owns a transportation company called Service Driven Transport, called the department and offered to fly Link and Julienne with their dogs to Uvalde.

“These K-9 units, there’s nothing but unconditional love that comes from these dogs,” Massingill, who accompanied the team to Texas, said.

Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe said the officers and the dogs were en route within 12 hours. Their mission: Not only offer support to the children affected by the tragedy, but also to Uvalde police officers, some of whom lost family members in the massacre as well. As many as 17 other people were also injured in the attack.

“Whatever we can do for them, for that community and police family in Texas. This is the least we can do,” DaRe said.

“Officers, we go into robot mode when we have to get the job done,” Link said. But when officers spotted Link and Julienne in uniform and saw their dogs, it helped them to start chatting “and they got to be human,” he added.

Julienne said they spent the day at the Willie de Leon Civic Center in Uvalde, which was initially set up as a reunification site for children with their families. By Wednesday, it served as a counseling center.

The dogs “helped to change the mood of the people there and allowed them to better express themselves with the counselors,” Julienne said,

Misha and Nellie were two of multiple dogs on site to provide support as of Wednesday. However, they were the only police dogs on site, according to Link.

Julienne added: “It’s a small-knit town and everyone is connected.”

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