Meet Mason, Portsmouth’s New Comfort Dog Program Supported By AT&T

Owen Smith – President, AT&T New Hampshire
March 13, 2023
Community Impact, Public Safety

Meet Mason, Portsmouth’s New Comfort Dog Program Supported By AT&T

The dedicated women and men of Portsmouth Police Department are public safety’s first line of response. They deal with traumatic events, often one after another. And too often they silently carry the burden.

That’s where Mason comes in.

In conjunction with Hero Pups, and powered by AT&T, the Portsmouth Police Department launched a new program aimed at Officer Wellness and Victim Support – The Police Comfort Dog Program. The program was announced in January 2023 and on March 8, Mason was introduced to his new coworkers at the Portsmouth Police Station.

Mason, a four-month-old Labrador retriever, will continue training with his handler, Officer Michael Nicoli, for the next few months around the Portsmouth community. Later this year, Mason will be assigned to the department full-time.

The name Mason honors Captain John Mason, the “founder of New Hampshire”.

Unlike typical police dogs, comfort dogs work to ease the trauma for individuals impacted by violence, tragedy, or traumatic events. Mason will serve both community members and the officers and staff within the department. Many resources exist that can improve coping and recovery, enhance morale, decrease stress and reduce emotional distress in first responders. Studies have shown that interacting with animals can have a positive impact on these stressors and more.

Hero Pups, based in Exeter, NH, has a long history of working with not only police departments but also with first responders and veterans. Hero Pups works primarily with shelter and rescue dogs and has paired 191 dogs with local veterans and first responders. In 2022, AT&T and Hero Pups collaborated to bring a comfort dog to the Maine Bureau of Emergency Communications.

AT&T’s support of Hero Pups is a part of our longstanding relationship with public safety in New Hampshire and across the country. Through FirstNet®, Built with AT&T—the only wireless network built with and for public safety—we collaborate with first responders both on and off the front lines. In doing so, we recognized the need for resources focused on first responder health and wellness and established the FirstNet® Health & Wellness Coalition. We support programs and partnerships that bring wellness tools directly to our local public safety heroes. And Hero Pups is truly making a difference by giving our first responders a tool unlike any other.

We applaud Portsmouth PD and their leadership for prioritizing officer health and wellness and for taking action by instituting this comfort dog program. And Officer Nicoli deserves great credit for taking on this important role and giving Mason a home. By bolstering their ranks with this new four-legged recruit, they’ve certainly given Portsmouth a new best friend.