GREAT BARRINGTON — As he waited to be sworn in, the newest member of the Police Department chewed a rawhide.

Then, he moved on to a fallen face mask as proceedings commenced. And yet another.

Treats persuaded him to sit still so he could be presented with his badge.

His name is Beko, a 3-month-old English black Labrador retriever the department brought in to "reduce tension and anxieties," Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh said at a ceremony Friday outside the station. When dealing with police, he noted, most people "are not having their best day."

Beko is in training to be the Police Department's first therapy dog. Actually, he is the first therapy dog in all the Berkshires.

The use of comfort dogs is growing in popularity with departments, and especially amid a rapid "sea change" in policing in the past year, Walsh said.

He said Beko already is doing wonders on calls where puppy love is needed: domestic abuse situations where children are present, for instance. He said the pup helps relax crime victims and witnesses who come in to give statements. Therapy dogs also can ease officer stress.

Officer Kristopher Balestro is Beko's trainer and main handler. His training, certification and care are covered by donations from the community.

Sgt. Paul Storti was instrumental in getting the program up and running. Local dog trainer Lois Platt has volunteered her services, and the community has supported the program in other ways.

New Hampshire breeders Peggy and Dave Brogan donated Beko — the 13th they have given to departments so far. They attended the ceremony and said afterward that they breed for calm temperaments.

"Our dogs are very low key," Peggy Brogan said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.