PHILADELPHIA – Halo wasn't the kind of rescue dog everybody wanted, or that anybody wanted, for nearly a year.
Surrendered by her owners after they broke up, Halo, a 6-year-old pit bull mix, was taken in by Rags 2 Riches Animal Rescue in Delaware County and placed with a foster family as they waited for someone to see through her quirks, to the good girl underneath.
Halo didn't have fluffiness or youth going for her – the gray started to settle in around her boopable nose some time ago – and one of her back legs points up in the air like a pop-up turkey timer whenever she sits down.
But when Upland Borough Police Lt. Mickey Curran saw her picture on Facebook, he knew Halo was the dog his department had been looking for.
"She had a snaggletooth and an underbite, and I said, 'That's the girl for us!'" Curran recalled. "I said 'I know this is unorthodox but would you be OK with a police department rescuing a dog and with the dog living at the station?'"
Tish Mayo, director of Rags 2 Riches, had never heard of such an arrangement before. "I thought it was wonderful," she said. "I think dogs belong everywhere."
Adopted by the entire department, Halo moved into the Upland police station on Castle Avenue in March 2019 and has been living there ever since.
"I'd never heard of a station dog but I know we're here 24/7 and there's a lot of dogs that don't have homes," Curran said. "I thought it'd be good for morale, especially when you come back from a tough situation, like a domestic violence case or a car crash, she's there to greet you with her tail wagging. It makes the day a little easier."
Last week, she was officially sworn in as an Upland police officer, making her the first rescue K-9 in the department's history and the only one in Delaware County, Curran said.
Halo won't be sniffing out drugs or finding missing bodies as part of her duties, she'll strictly be working as a community police officer, attending police and borough events and making visitors feel welcome at the station (Hi! Oh my gosh! I'm so happy you're here! Do you want to hold my paw? Look at how far back my ears can go. Do you like wagging tails? Well I've got one!)
While Halo graciously accepted her new title, she did mistake her swearing-in ceremony for a belly-rub session and offered her tummy instead of her paw to District Justice Georgia Stone as she read her oath in front of the entire police department and borough council July 14.
Once belly rubs were dutifully administered, Halo made things official by signing her oath of office with a paw print. She even received an Upland police badge with her name engraved on it, which permanently hangs from her collar now.
"She's legit," Curran said, of Halo's police officer status. "She took an oath and put her paw on the Bible and all."
When the department adopted Halo last year, the officers (who paid for her care out of their own pockets) had no plans to make her a cop or to use her to help build community relations. They just had a home to offer a homeless pet and the need for the kind of comfort only a dog can give.
But when the citizens of Upland learned their police department adopted a rescue dog, she quickly became the borough's dog too. People often stop in to the station just to visit Halo and they send her treats (so, so many treats) and squeaky stuffed animals, too, just to keep her coworkers on their toes.
The officers no longer have to pay for her food and care out of their own pockets because so many donations have poured in addressed to Halo that she's got her own bank account now.
In reaction to the community response, Curran created an Instagram account for Halo, so her fans can follow her paw-licing adventures visiting local schools and hospitals, or watch her sitting in the dugout, cheering on her department's softball team.
Halo has helped to humanize the officers of Upland to the people they serve in a way that only a dog can, and Curran hopes other police departments will consider adopting a rescue dog for their station too.
"We got her to bring the officers closer together and to assist them when they return from horrific calls ... but what it turned out to be is the community getting her involved and her becoming a spokesperson for the department," Curran said. "That was not what we expected."
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