MANCHESTER — After serving four years as the town's K-9, Kato is enjoying his golden years as an ambassador for a therapeutic center for police dogs. 

The K9 PTSD Center of Seekonk is a nonprofit organization that studies service dogs who have worked in law enforcement and the military. 

"There has been little recent research on diagnosing and treating canine PTSD, and little help for these K9s," reads the organization's website. "The K9 PTSD Center is determined to change this by promoting research in this area and widely distributing the most accurate and latest information through publication and education."

While many of the dogs under K9 PTSD Center's care show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, some — such as 9-year-old Kato — do not. Military and police dogs are not trained to be pets and many, unfortunately, are euthanized after their service is up. The K9 PTSD Center does not rehouse the dogs it takes in. Instead, staff provide these unique dogs with the acute care they require so they can live out a full and healthy life.

Kato joined the K9 PTSD Center in February 2019. Founder and Director James LaMonte describes him as "an ambassador for the K9 PTSD Center."

"I take him to visit senior centers and those with disabilities, people who want dogs but can't care for them," LaMonte said. "He also comes with me to school programs. So he's still serving people today."

Kato and Officer Joe Archambault formed Manchester's first-ever K-9 unit in 2014. During their tenure in Manchester, the two sniffed out $8,000 worth of cocaine and heroin inside a storage unit in town in 2017 and $9,000 worth of MDMA, also called ectasy or Molly, in Gloucester in 2015.  

In 2014, Archambault competed on NBC's "American Ninja Warrior Challenge." Kato was featured heavily in the video package that aired before Archambault took on the obstacle course.

Kato was a beloved service dog around town. He would entertain children at various police dog demonstrations across Cape Ann over the years. The town also threw him two birthday parties. Just before celebrating his fourth birthday in 2017, Kato helped locate a disoriented elderly man with dementia wandering by himself in the woods by Salem Country Club’s golf course in Peabody.

When Kato retired from the Manchester Police Department in 2018, he was taken in by Archambault. That same year, Archambault joined the Beverly Police Department.

"I'm not a K9 officer here (at BPD)," Archambault said. "I wasn't able to take care of him with my long shifts here. Plus, he's not really a house pet. He has too much energy. I wouldn't want him to get locked away in a kennel, so I found a nice home for him." 

Since Kato joined the K9 PTSD Center, he has not only been bringing comfort and joy to humans on his visits to senior centers and the like, but the other dogs at the center as well. 

"With some of these dogs, there's a heightened sense of anxiety, and that fear will sometimes manifest itself in dog-on-dog aggression," explained LaMonte. "Kato is such a calm and level-headed dog that he'll get some of the other dogs you wouldn't normally have interacting with others playing and having fun."

Since being under LaMonte's care, the two have formed a special bond.

"He's one of my best friends," LaMonte said of Kato. "Wherever I go, he goes. He's just an amazing, special dog."

Currently, there are 12 dogs at the K9 PTSD Center; LaMonte isn't able to take in any more. He recently opened a GoFundMe page with the hopes of raising enough money to buy a new facility in Swansea. The former Girl Scout camp could potentially house up to 500 dogs. For more information or to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/for-the-dogs-k9-new-home.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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