When a child has gone through a large trauma such as sexual assault or sexual exploitation, they are very vulnerable and can struggle with having to talk about their trauma to police and clinicians who are trying to help them. That’s where Cali the dog comes in.
Cali, a three-year-old Australian Labradoodle, was the first police dog to take on this job of comforting young trauma victims. She resides with the Cranston Police Department and Detective Michael Iacone who takes her where she is needed – including to St. Mary’s on occasion.
“Her mere presence is a comfort and they just focus on her,” said St. Mary’s clinician Angelica Spirito. “Having her present helps alleviate some of that tension, that stress, that anxiety, the children experience when having to talk about something so personal.”
Now, Cali is branching out to get more well know. The Cranston Police Department has created a coloring book that includes the canine and highlights what to do in an emergency, advice about how to handle a bully, as well as bike safety, internet safety, and more. Plus, they have created t-shirts with Cali’s face on them. (See photo of Spirito wearing the shirt.)
In 2020, Cali visited about 50 schools in Cranston. When she is not with Detective Iacone, Cali works with Dr. Christine Barron, who is the director of the Lawrence A. Aubin Child Protection Center. Created through Hasbro Children’s Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in 1996, the program provides services for abused and neglected children.
Cali helped pave the way for other police departments to use dogs to comfort victims. Today, Pawtucket, Bristol, and Smithfield police all provide dogs that make things just a little easier for kids going through a trauma.
Cali photo credits: Cranston Police Department
St. Mary’s clinican Angelica Spirito wears a Cali t-shirt.
Cali’s coloring books.
Detective Iacone with Cali.