(NewsNation) — Every day, those who patrol the U.S-Mexico border see the humanitarian toll of life on the border up close.
“There’s many stressors out there, from finding bodies out in the field or in the river to being handed a child, or seeing a 3, 4-year-old that comes here and crosses the border by themselves,” Border Patrol Agent Carlos Ruiz said. “We are not only agents, we’re also brothers, we’re fathers.”
There is a Customs and Border Protection resource that can help them deal with these dangerous and tragic situations.
It’s nothing complicated, no bells and whistles — just four legs, a bowtie and a pair of puppy dog eyes.
CBP has been adding support K-9s all along the border. Sometimes they’re there to brighten the spirits of an employee who needs a boost. Other times, they’re comforting family members of agents lost in the field.
According to people who’ve met them, a few minutes with the dogs can go a long way.
Robert Hess, a border patrol chaplain based in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is the handler for CBP dog Chappie.
At first, “I was like, seriously? You’re going to give a Border Patrol agent a poodle?” Hess said. “But I met Chappie in California. He won me over really quick.”
That’s because Chappie is a “really good dog.”
“He’s very effective,” Hess said. “He just knows how to win people over here.”
Those on the border say these animals are needed. Art Del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, says it’s never been tougher to be a CBP employee.
“It’s a war zone. That’s what it has come down to,” Del Cueto says.
Morale has taken a hit. Multiple people have died in the line of duty over the years. In 2022, 14 border patrol agents took their own lives — an all-time high.
Ruiz, who served in the U.S. Army before joining Border Patrol, will be the first to tell you sometimes, what you need is a colleague and friend like Chappie.
“As an ex-soldier with PTSD, for me, that’s a big help,” Ruiz said. “Because he resets my head, my mindset — someone like Chappie will help save lives.”