SAPD officer saves stray dog at police academy, now dog is a certified therapy animal

SAPD officer and dog Neily make therapy visits to community, via Paws for Service

SAN ANTONIO – Neily, is a Rottweiler bull terrier mix and is a big teddy bear. Neily likes to snuggle and give kisses, and now he gets to do it as a job as a certified therapy animal through the local non-profit Paws for Service.

None of this would’ve been possible without his owner, San Antonio police officer Jason Hoekstra.

“When I was in training at the academy a couple of years ago, Neily showed up on the ground at the street,” Hoekstra said.

“And he was out there for a couple of weeks. I told my wife, I’m like, we got to save that dog.” Hoekstra rescued Neily through the help of the city of San Antonio Animal Care Services.

He however soon realized Neily had a calling.

“One day I noticed, you know, I come home after a long day at work and sat down on the couch,” Hoekstra said. “Neily would just kind of sit up next to me and kind of snuggle in. And I thought, man, this dog’s got a purpose.”

After going through weeks of training, Hoekstra and Neily became a certified volunteer therapy team for Paws for Service.

“It’s wonderful to see him, Hoekstra said.

“So, you know, we walk through the doors that are at our senior facility where we’re assigned and in their faces just light up.”

Hoekstra even takes Neily once a week to SAPD’s wellness center where they visit with officers. He hopes to be able to expand their work through SAPD and include visits with homicide or other units that see a lot of trauma on the force.

Hoekstra said he has always loved to volunteer in his community, and hopes when people see his badge with Neily, it can make a positive connection.

“Present that as an extension of my work, just kind of places a human element to the badge and you know, can help others see that,” Hoekstra said. “We’re humans, we’re individuals too, just like them. And Neily is a is a great conversation starter as well.”

About the Author:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.