Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

To Wag and Serve: This PA Capitol police rookie is young, friendly and may just lick your hand

When you think of a police dog, you may envision a large German shepherd with sharp teeth and a menacing look.

Well, that’s not Cappy at all.

The newest member of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police immediately greeted me with a wagging tail and started licking my hand. Cappy, short for Capitol, will serve as a community service dog, helping to build a relationship between police and the public, which means you just might see her around Harrisburg.

“She just makes it easier for people to approach us and talk to us,” said Sgt. Michael Schmidt.

On an early morning in April, Schmidt received a call about a stray dog near a Capitol office building. There, he found the 7-month-old pit bull mix wagging her tail and licking anyone who came up to her.

A futile search for an owner followed, as did a trip to the vet. Before long, Cappy had herself a new home with Schmidt —and a new job.

The Capitol police force currently has five other K-9s, including four explosive-detection dogs and one narcotics-detection dog. However, Cappy will be unlike her fellow coworkers in the K-9 unit, as her main purpose is community outreach and comforting crime victims.

“[With Cappy] you get to see the police officers in a different light,” said Troy Thompson, press secretary for the state Department of General Services. “They’re not giving anyone a ticket, they’re not arresting anyone. It’s just a positive interaction that can stick with people and break the ice.”

Although formal training efforts are in the works, Cappy has started basic obedience training with Schmidt, who is a former K-9 trainer himself. She already spends days out in the community with the Capitol police, and nights with Schmidt and his family on his small farm, which includes another dog, a cat, goats and chickens.

“It’s preferable that she’s in an environment where she can go home to sleep and be around other animals and children, and Capt. Schmidt has both,” Thompson said. “She gets a taste of the city life during the day and the country life during the evening.”

Cappy’s name was determined through a Facebook competition. From the thousands of people who commented, the other top contenders were Hannah, River, Blue and Penny.

“It was such a positive thing to see everyone involved and that we were able to do something like this, and we’re just going to continue to build off of that with Cappy,” Thompson said.

The Capitol police hope that Cappy will provide a friendly face for Harrisburg residents and help strengthen the bond between the community and the force.

“We do a lot here, and we just want to be able to keep promoting that,” Thompson said. “We feel like Cappy is another way that we can continue to do that. And we look forward for what’s to come for this pup.”

Pictured: PA Capitol Police Sgt. Michael Schmidt and Cappy

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