I.U.P.A. Local Metro Washington Airport Police Association, #5004 Members have a four-legged helper for their work at the airports in the D.C. area. Tiller is a facility canine, or a therapy dog, as it is commonly termed in other parts of the country. To learn more about therapy dogs, read previous articles from the I.U.P.A. Briefing Room:

Tiller works around the airport cheering up people passing through and the staff at the airport. He is also used to assist witnesses when they have to give courtroom testimony, to comfort first responders after there was an explosion at a scene that fire personnel were working, and during Police Week to accompany a child whose parents were deceased and whose caregiver uncle who was a law enforcement officer had also recently died.

Tiller is a certified service dog who began his training at nine weeks of age and continued until he was two years old. Learn more about him from his bio that was generously provided by the department. Information about Mutts With A Mission, where Tiller was trained, can be found at their website.

The Airports Authority Police Department welcomed Tiller to the team in April of 2023. Tiller is a facility dog trained to provide psychological and emotional health benefits to groups and individuals experiencing stress, anxiety, or trauma. The Peer Support Team and Tiller’s primary handler, Lt. Tim Blayman, use Tiller to assist staff during day-to-day work events, after critical incident responses, for mental health assistance, and in stress debriefings for officers who have covered a traumatic event, injury, or death on the job.

One of Airports Authority Chief of Police David Huchler’s goals is to ensure the Authority’s Police Department keeps current with trends on peer support and positive mental health solutions for all officers. Huchler says facility dogs at police departments create a more positive work environment, improve communication, and also help the mental well-being of staff. Blayman’sgoal is to ease the stigma sometimes associated with law enforcement and ensure public safety employees know it is “OK to not be okay – even for police officers.”

Before bringing Tiller to the Airport’s Authority, Blayman and Tiller had to complete two weeks of training at Mutts with A Mission in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Mutts With A Mission, led by director Brooke Corson, raises and trains world-class dogs year-round to become Assistance Dogs International-certified service and facility dogs. The dogs assist disabled veterans, first responders and law enforcement. Mutts With A Mission trained Tiller from 9 weeks old until 2 years of age.

Facility dogs like Tiller complete the same rigorous training program as service dogs, but instead of helping just one individual, facility dogs help groups of people cope. Many police departments in Virginia, including the Town of Herndon Police Department, New Market Police Department, Town of Vienna Police Department, and Harrisonburg Police Department, have added facility dogs over the past few years. A Mutts With A Mission-trained dog even joined the crew of the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier last year, and made history as the first expanded operational stress control dog to be placed into service on a U.S. Navy ship.