Sterling Police Department’s new comfort dog, Millie, reports for duty

New comfort dog has been named in honor of Sterling’s manufacturing history

Golden retriever puppy, Millie, taking a nap under Community Service Officer Tekla Martin's desk.

STERLINGSterling Police Department’s employee roster got a new member this week when Millie, a Golden Retriever puppy, reported for duty as the department’s new comfort dog.

Millie, along with her handler, Community Service Officer Mary Toth, started their first day working together at the station Monday. The new comfort dog is being brought on as Brinkley, Sterling PD’s current comfort dog, and her handler, Community Service Officer Tekla Martin, are set to retire June 12. Martin and Brinkley are working alongside Toth and Millie for the next six weeks to mentor them in their new roles.

Brinkley’s a little jealous of the new puppy getting so much attention. She’s been a bit of a prima donna, Martin said in an interview with Shaw Local.

The process to bring in a new comfort dog began when the breeder at Harvestime Kennel in Menasha, Wisconsin, selected her based on qualities the Sterling PD requested, such as being calm and affectionate, Martin said. The breeder told them she was the “lowest energy” of the litter. She was named Harvestime’s One in a Million, or “Millie,” in honor of Sterling’s manufacturing history. The naming decision was announced Thursday and was based on a community vote through Facebook.

Millie made her way to Sterling late last week, when she was picked up from Harvestime Kennel on Friday. Millie’s puppy training will begin in two weeks and the length of that training will depend on Millie’s specific needs. Martin and Toth expect the training to go quickly because Millie had stopped biting after only two days and she was doing great with potty training, they said.

At home, Millie has been pretty active, Toth said. She certainly got tired on the job Monday, opting at times to nap underneath Martin’s desk.

Toth, a former Sterling police officer, briefly left the department to pursue other interests, but said she would come back if the community service officer role became available. When it did, she was selected to fill the position, which is a tough one to post, Martin said. On paper, everyone wants the position but it’s a big commitment with a lot of responsibilities.

Martin, a pioneer in the position when Sterling PD created it in 2018, said the role includes a lot of different responsibilities, such as assisting sergeants and officers on shifts, making connections with community members, and, of course, taking care of the community service dog, Sterling Police Chief Alex Chavira said during an interview with Shaw Local.

Millie’s got a busy schedule ahead of her. On Thursday, both dogs and their handlers will be over at April House, Whiteside County’s children’s advocacy center in Morrison, to comfort a child who is scheduled for an interview. Brinkley, who has been a huge comfort to the children and their caregivers there, will be able to show Millie the ropes, Martin said.

Additionally, they have scheduled a visit to Sauk Valley Community College’s mental health peer group, the Whiteside Area Career Center’s CEO class, and they plan to attend Sterling PD’s Run for the Badge event May 11.

The department is also planning to hold a meet-and-greet event at PetSmart, a sponsor of the department’s Community Service Dog program, so that community members can meet the puppy.

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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.