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How a dog named Donut is making a difference in Altoona

Thursday, May 13, 2021
Jessica Mendoza | WEAU

Published: May 7, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT | WEAU

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - We are seven days into Mental Health Awareness Month now. One member of the Altoona Police Department is making a positive impact on people's day-to-day lives - and makes it look easy.

"From classrooms people yell out donut donut donut!" said school resource officer Timothy Peterson.

Donut is a year and a half old, labradoodle, proudly serving the City of Altoona.

"He is basically a celebrity here," said Officer Peterson.

He and Peterson can be found at Altoona High School five days a week.

"It helps bridge the gap between me, being a uniformed law enforcement officer, and the students here. Nobody wants to talk to a cop but they want to come up and talk to me now they want to interact with Donut," Peterson says.

This pup joined the force right as the pandemic hit last year. His calming presence, Peterson says, rubs off on those around him.

"I've had students and staff having really bad days inside and outside of school and seeing their anxiety melt away is just amazing," said Peterson.

Ellie Benson is a junior at Altoona High School, and says it's easy to see how much donut means to fellow students.

"When he is walking through the hallway you can see he is brightening every student's day,"

Benson says donut has helped her manage stress at school.

"It takes me a lot to take a test like I have a lot of anxiety so it feels good to pet him and be around him before taking a test," Benson said.

Outside of school hours, Donut also reports to many other duties within the community.

"We use him on patrol as well for different cases such as domestics child neglect, child abuse or suicidal persons," Officer Peterson said.

The only thing people don't like about Donut? There simply isn't enough of him.

"We need five more of him. Every dog should be Donut!" Benson said.

Donut was donated to the Altoona Police Department by Blueberry Cottage Labradoodles in Osseo. Officer Peterson believes every police department should have a therapy dog.

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