Scarborough police officers got a new companion this week – a dog that will eat, play and sleep at the police station for the rest of its life.

Marlea, a Saintberdoodle puppy, arrived Monday and will serve as the police department’s first-ever community comfort dog.

“Her name is Marlea (pronounced Marley) and she is a cute little bundle of fur that will be the department’s first ever comfort dog,” Police Chief Robby Moulton wrote in a post on the department’s Facebook page. “She will live at the station with the men and women that are on-duty. Marlea is coming on board to provide comfort to our dispatchers and first responders as well as to the members of our community, who are at the station as a result of traumatic experiences in their lives.”

Moulton said that during his career in law enforcement he has come to recognize the importance of providing an outlet for people to purge the day-to-day traumas they experience. Moulton said he remembers when his mother was in a nursing home and how she would “light up” when someone brought in a dog to visit. Dogs have also served as companions to veterans who have struggled dealing with the horrors of war.

The idea of having a dog live at the police station took on a greater sense of urgency after the chief visited a local construction company where one of the owners brought his dog to work. Moulton wrote that the dog seemed to uplift employee spirits.

“We have people working at all hours of every day, so why couldn’t we have a dog that would live at our station and provide comfort to those that need it?” Moulton said.

Scarborough police began searching for a hypoallergenic, low-shedding puppy with a good disposition, a dog that would be friendly to humans as well as other animals. The department’s search led them to Marlea, who once fully grown will weigh about 40 pounds.

Marlea’s mother was a 68-pound mixed breed St. Bernard and full-size poodle, Moulton said. Her father was a mini-poodle.

Scarborough could be breaking new ground. Moulton, in a telephone interview Wednesday evening, said he is unaware of any other police department in Maine that has a live-in comfort dog.

Marlea sleeps in a “playpen” by the dispatch center. Dispatchers, officers and office staff take her for walks now and when the new police/fire station opens in April near the Scarborough town office, Marlea will will have all sorts of people offering to take her outside for a walk, Moulton predicts. The police station is currently located off Route 1, across the busy highway from the town office, Scarborough High School and recreational fields.

A couple of hours after the puppy arrived Monday, a woman who was the victim of a financial crime was sitting in the lobby. She was distraught, but after Moulton let her cuddle with Marlea, her mood changed.

“Tears started streaming down her face and she said, ‘This is just what I needed,'” Moulton recalled.

Members of the Scarborough Town Council got the Marlea experience at their meeting Wednesday night, when they voted unanimously to accept the dog as a donation. Moulton said councilors held the puppy and cuddled with it.

Marlea was named after former Deputy Police Chief Marla St. Pierre, who retired recently, and Leanne Risbara Dehler, who teamed up  with St. Pierre to donate the puppy to the police department.

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