Meet Officer Clarence, the dog who comforted president Joe Biden and other officers at US Capitol service

The Saint Barnard is the first official police comfort dog who specialises in helping first responders in the aftermath of critical incidents

Valerie Chicola, a staffer on Capitol Hill pets Officer Clarence, a Saint Bernard from the Greenfield, Massachusetts police department. Reuters
Valerie Chicola, a staffer on Capitol Hill pets Officer Clarence, a Saint Bernard from the Greenfield, Massachusetts police department. Reuters

At a service to honour slain US Capitol Officer William Evans on Wednesday, one four-legged officer also received special recognition from US president Joe Biden.

Officer Clarence, a Saint Bernard, 9, who attended the event at the US Capitol to give comfort to other police officers and members of the US Congress, was awarded a pet and a kiss from the president.

Clarence’s partner, Deputy Police Chief William Gordon, said the moment was “surreal”.

“I was posted in an alcove outside of the Rotunda, where Evans’ body lay. I was probably 50 feet away from his body and 25 feet from the president. I didn’t expect that he would come through the alcove to leave, but that’s what happened. When the services ended, they asked me to step aside so the president could move through,” Gordon told The Greenfield Recorder.

The president, a known dog lover, then noticed Clarence.

“He came to [him], caressed both of his cheeks and forehead, and then kissed him on the snout. He thanked me and shook my hand and walked off.”

Officer Clarence and his partner Deputy Police Chief William Gordon were one of seven teams who were invited by the K9 First Responders to the service at the US Capitol. REUTERS
Officer Clarence and his partner Deputy Police Chief William Gordon were one of seven teams who were invited by the K9 First Responders to the service at the US Capitol. Reuters

Officer Clarence is the first official police comfort dog and he specialises in helping first responders in the aftermath of critical incidents. He was one of seven teams who were invited by the K9 First Responders to the service on Wednesday.

Gordon said comfort dogs have been used over the years following major tragedies, including after the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. They’ve also comforted local residents who have experienced the trauma of fires, accidents and other life-altering events, he told The Recorder.

“We travel the country, wherever we’re asked to go,” Gordon said. “This time we were asked to help out during services at the Capitol building.

Capitol Officer William Evans was killed on April 2 when a man slammed his vehicle into the north barricade of the Capitol complex, hitting him and another officer. The suspect, Noah Green, 25, was shot by another officer and later died.

Speaking at the service, Biden, who also met with the family privately, said Evans was “defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty and his courage,” and he spoke of his own experience losing two children.

“Losing a son, daughter, brother, sister, mom, dad — it’s like losing a piece of your soul,” he said.

The president and his wife Jill Biden have two dogs, Champ and Major, both German Shepherds. Major, who is only three, has been the source of angst with two biting incidents being reported since his relocation to the White House. The Bidens said last week Major was receiving professional help to help him adjust to his new life.

Updated: April 15, 2021 03:30 PM

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