When police officer Evan Lavigne of Taunton, Massachusetts, took a selfie with a lost dog, he found more than just the dog's owner — he found a new nickname.
Lavigne, 25, told TODAY he was finishing up a night shift with the Taunton Police Department when a call came in around 7 a.m.: A pit bull had been found wandering the streets and was being held in the vestibule of a local bank. Lavigne had come across another lost pit bull the week before and thought it might be the same dog, so he offered to go take a look while the dispatcher got in touch with animal control.
When he arrived, he saw that this was a different dog — but a friendly one, who greeted Lavigne before jumping into the back of his cruiser. Lavigne let the station know he would take the dog to animal control, but found no one on duty.
Lavigne’s shift ended at 8 a.m. He had signed up to work a double, meaning he would be on until 5 p.m. that day. There was just one problem: He was due back for roll call with nowhere to drop off his four-legged friend.
The department suggested he stay in the car, and other officers dropped by bearing treats and offering belly rubs to the new sidekick. Amused by his turn as dog sitter, Lavigne took a selfie with the canine to send to friends on Snapchat. By then, they had spent several hours together.
“I felt bad just leaving him, not knowing what was going to happen,” Lavigne told TODAY. “He was one of the friendliest dogs I’ve ever met. I asked the gentleman who runs our Facebook page if he might be willing to put the photo on there … Even if the owner wasn’t following us, his family or friends might be.”
Lavigne also hoped the photo might show a softer side of law enforcement, as recent criticism has contributed to low morale. “There are lots of officers and first responders who do amazing things every day and don’t get credit,” said Lavigne. “I thought this could be a vehicle for people to feel good and smile about something ... to see that we do care.”
The photo did its job: Animal control was able to locate the owner, and local news outlets were charmed by Lavigne’s photo op. So a week later, when another lost dog turned up, it was only fitting that the dispatcher put Lavigne on the case.
“This one was at a convenience store,” Lavigne recalled. “I bought a bunch of Slim Jims. I ate half, and he stuck his head through the window and ate the other.”
But first, they took a selfie.
This one also hit its target. A user named Mark Lopes commented, “Thank u for finding my dog he is home.”
Lavigne has since become the station's go-to guy for dog calls. Colleagues have even taken to calling him "Dog Whisperer."
Lavigne doesn't mind. “If it were my pet, I would want someone to make sure he was OK and that someone would take care of my dog until I was able to find them,” he said.
And since then, Lavigne has really gotten in touch with his canine side ...
Now that's what we call a "ruff" rider. Keep up the good work, Officer Lavigne!