Toys & Training

Strafford County sheriff’s workplace has a brand new consolation canine

DOVER — The most recent deputy becoming a member of the ranks of Strafford County Sheriff’s Division continues to be in coaching, however is already making historical past.

Cara, a 13-week-old black labrador pet, is the division’s first consolation canine.

Police consolation canine are just like remedy canine, serving to consolation individuals coping with any type of nerve-racking state of affairs, like courtroom testimony, forensic interviews, home violence conditions, psychological well being conditions, or help within the faculties.

Cara is being skilled and licensed by the nonprofit Hero Pups to make sure the canine is able to report for responsibility full-time upon turning 10 months previous. Cara’s title, which is Irish for pal, was chosen by a neighborhood ballot taken by the division. 

Strafford County Sheriff's Deputy Katie O’Brien greets Cara, the department's first comfort dog on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Exeter at the nonprofit Hero Pups.

Deputy Katie O’Brien has been assigned as Cara’s handler. O’Brien is a 12-year veteran of regulation enforcement. Whereas she has worn many hats through the years, she mentioned she appears ahead to spearheading the county’s first police consolation canine program.

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“The presence of a canine can transcend so many issues, from variations in cultures, to various conditions or diploma of worry,” O’Brien mentioned. “Individuals can see a canine like Cara and immediately really feel a relaxed come over them as they pet her. Cara can be utilized to supply consolation and to assist individuals chill out when they might be coping with a nerve-racking state of affairs or what could possibly be the worst day of their lives.”

O’Brien describes Cara as her “new companion.” As soon as fully-trained, Cara will accompany O’Brien wherever she goes on responsibility and can dwell with O’Brien.

A certified consolation canine

Hero Pups founder Laura Barker mentioned Cara and her 9 littermates had been born at Hero Pups, and their mom was a rescue canine. At first, the then unnamed pet was given a purple collar and nicknamed “Purple” till the division named her. 

“She is a good canine total, and whereas she’s a bit opinionated, we’re engaged on that,” Barker mentioned with amusing. “It’s not a foul factor, although. We wish our canine to have their very own particular person personalities. She’s light and type, with an enormous character.”

Deputy Katie O’Brien has the attention of Cara, the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department's first comfort dog, Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Exeter.

Barker mentioned coaching police consolation canine like Cara is barely a small a part of the providers they provide. A lot of their work is centered on connecting help canine with veterans and first responders experiencing bodily or psychological well being challenges. 

Barker mentioned that when figuring out which puppies will make good consolation canine, there’s a number of standards the canine has to satisfy. 

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“A police consolation canine …. doesn’t reply to nerve-racking conditions,” Barker mentioned. “These are canine that aren’t nice service canine candidates as a result of they love and deal with everyone, whereas a service canine must focus their consideration on the well-being of 1 particular person. These are like remedy canine on steroids, and their work is equally as difficult in numerous methods.”

A day within the lifetime of the county’s first consolation canine

Cara is already out within the subject on a part-time foundation. When she’s not working her tail off in coaching, she’s being launched to the neighborhood by means of visits to native occasions and faculties.

“It’s necessary that we introduce her to the neighborhood since you by no means know while you may need assistance,” O’Brien mentioned. “These meet-and-greets hopefully construct a optimistic basis, particularly with younger kids. That approach, in the event that they discover themselves needing Cara’s consolation, a sure diploma of belief and luxury is already established.”

Hero Pups Head of Operations Selena Barker, left, Deputy Katie O’Brien and Hero Pups Founder Laura Barker are continuing to train Cara, the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department's first comfort dog, as seen Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Exeter.

Hero Pups spends months coaching their canine to organize them for no matter job is ready for them. For Cara, meaning studying how one can take care of tense, loud and nerve-racking conditions, whether or not that’s serving to calm a baby down as they provide testimony or speeding to assistance from a sufferer’s household on the scene of a tragedy. 

“Right here’s one instance of a consolation canine in motion. We had a canine that was introduced down a riverbank close to Harmony to consolation a grieving household as they waited for his or her son’s physique to be pulled out of the river,” Barker mentioned. “There have been helicopters overhead, boats within the water, it was mad chaos, however that canine got here in and offered some reduction and distraction for that household.”

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O’Brien mentioned as a result of the sheriff’s workplace is within the Strafford County constructing in Dover, alongside quite a few court docket rooms and the Strafford County Youngster Advocacy Heart, it is a chance to companion with totally different businesses. The Strafford County Youngster Advocacy Heart, for instance, is the place forensic interviews of kids and different victims of sexual assaults are finished.

“There’s any variety of conditions the place having an onsite consolation canine could possibly be helpful,” O’Brien mentioned.

O’Brien mentioned essentially the most rewarding a part of this consolation canine program can be seeing the distinction Cara could make by means of these kinds of interactions. 

“Sadly, within the 12 years I have been doing this, I’ve sat by means of approach too many youngster forensic interviews,” O’Brien mentioned. “The middle may be very excited in regards to the prospect of getting a canine are available that may assist these youngsters get by means of the interview. Whenever you see these kids, who’ve been by means of essentially the most horrific occasions of their lives, they’re simply scared and intimidated. They’re requested to open as much as strangers in a room they’ve by no means been in. Having Cara go in there to present them a bit little bit of consolation with one thing else to focus on whereas they’re answering questions — that may make an enormous distinction.”

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