Ink Out Loud: Canines offer silent support
Dogs are amazing animals, able to reach the youngest of hearts. Service dogs provide that opportunity when children are afraid and confused. Mandy Feder’s article inspires a wonderful touching need for service dogs and children in need.
Canines Offer Silent Support
By Mandy Feder
I miss my dog, Duke — a tough-looking chocolate lab with an ugly birthmark over his left eye. He lived a good 17 years.
When I was sick or sad, he would lay his head on my lap and remain there perfectly still.
When Duke died, I thought I wouldn’t get another dog for awhile. My daughter Nicole said, “This house just isn’t a home without a dog.”
We went to the pound and perused the selection. We didn’t see a dog that seemed right for us. As we were leaving a man walking a lab/shepherd/rottweiler mix looked up at us. The man was crying, the dog was attempting to walk backward and was whining.
Nicole looked at the dog and said, “Oh, what a cute puppy.” She says that about many large, surly looking dogs. This one was 2 years old.
The man explained that he had two dogs and this one just showed up at his house about six months prior. He tried to keep him, but the other dogs kept beating him up.
The officer at the animal shelter, Otis, said “Hey Mandy, why don’t we just cut out the middle-man and you guys take this fella home. If it doesn’t work out you can bring him back.”
The man named the dog “Buckaroo,” “Buck” for short. Needless to say that was seven years ago and Buck is a great dog. He, like Duke, offers comfort and support, just as any other family member does.
I told you that story to tell you this one:
Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Curran came to see me this week. We talked about a program that
he would like to bring to Lake County that involves the use of dogs. You see, Curran investigates sex crimes. Quite often he interviews children who may be victims or witnesses.
About a decade ago Curran brought his golden retriever Rookie, with him while he was interviewing youth. The dog’s presence seemed to make the children comfortable and consequently they spoke more openly and appeared less afraid.
Recently Curran began kicking around the idea to begin a program in Lake County that would include the use of dogs for the purpose of comforting children during the often intimidating interview process.
Curran explained that the program would not be utilized unless there was parental consent. Allergy issues, cultural differences and fear of dogs or traumatic events that involved dogs such as a family pet dying or the child being bitten by a dog would also bar the use of the animal.
Curran began investigating the use of dogs for victim comfort online. He found that dogs have been used since 2003 when courthouse dogs began providing comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court. These canines are at work all over the state, country and in many other countries.
These dogs assist people with physical, psychological or emotional trauma because of criminal conduct. The dogs are professionally trained to service dog standards by an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.
Curran plans to visit and tour a Canine Companions for Independence facility soon to get more information.
If the program gets the go-ahead Curran would be trained to handle the dog and keep the dog at home.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is authorized to have as many as five canines. Currently there are two working canines in the department.
The training for comfort dogs is not as time-consuming as dogs used for drug investigations.
Curran said Sheriff Frank Rivero and the District Attorney’s office are excited about the prospect of this potentially new addition.
“Frank understands the need for this,” Curran said of Rivero.
Curran added that the use of the dogs removes the aura of authority and elevates the comfort level and helps resolve discomfort.
In my humble opinion, anything to put a pained child at ease in times of turmoil is a necessary move. Big kudos to Detective Curran.
“The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.” Henry Ward Beecher
Mandy Feder is the Record-Bee managing editor. She can be reached at email@example.com or 263-5636 ext. 32.
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