PREBLE COUNTY — Preble County Juvenile Court would like to see a therapy dog program implemented, in order to help children and families who are anxious to make them feel calmer. Court staff have presented the program to the Preble County Commissioners, but the board wanted to do their own research on insurance before moving forward.
Juvenile Probation Officer Teresa Leyes would be the handler, utilizing her dog, Charlie Bear, who is already certified as a therapy dog.
Charlie Bear was living in a high-kill shelter and Leyes agreed to take him as a foster dog. She decided to keep Charlie Bear as her own dog after fostering him for awhile.
They believe Charlie Bear is two years old and Leyes has been his owner for a year and a half now. Leyes was told he is a Chiweenie, which is a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix. His name was “Buck” when Leyes started fostering him, but once she adopted him she changed it to “Charlie Bear.”
She decided to get him trained based on his temperament.
“He doesn’t meet a stranger, he likes everyone,” she said. “He’s been around my grandson and he is just wonderful.”
Charlie Bear graduated from DOGTORS University, where the handler and pet train and work together as a team. This is a 10-week program that touches on the following topics: animal behavior & communication, pet health, how, why, and where Animal Assisted Therapy (ATT) works, patient protection, teamwork, infection control, AAT use with specific medial conditions, working around other animals, and HIPAA.
Leyes had to pass a written test and Charlie Bear had to pass a temperament and obedience test. Charlie Bear had to go to a facility to see how he would interact with patients he could be serving in the future.
Charlie Bear is Leyes’ dog and she is responsible for all of his bills, including medical. If approved, Charlie Bear will not become a “county dog,” he will still be Leyes’ responsibility, she will just be using him for this program.
Juvenile Court got this idea from other courts who have implemented it and articles about the success of the programs.
“There’s been studies for years about what works and animal therapy really works with kids. Animals are what works the best,” Judge Jenifer Overmyer said. “This is to calm everybody down. This will give comfort and calm to the kids and families in general.”
Court Administrator Heather Morton added, “It’s also a reward for some of the kids in the office.”
If the program is approved, Charlie Bear will visit the courthouse on a case by case basis.
“I think, he will make [the kids] much more comfortable,” Overmyer said. “It is not going to work with every child. Some kids might be afraid of dogs, period. Obviously, we’ll talk with them before [bringing Charlie Bear in]. Whatever we can do to help the public feel comfortable, and that is what we’re hoping he’ll do.
“Bottom line is, it has worked other places and we thought we should try it. Teresa was willing to do it and we appreciate her initiative.”
Morton presented the program to the Preble County Commissioners on Dec. 16. Following, Commissioner Chris Day asked for additional information on insurance.
“They were supposed to check with CORSA, because there are other courts in the state that have this program that have told me it is covered under the county insurance and we wouldn’t have to do anything extra, because [Charlie Bear] is certified [as a therapy dog],” Morton said. “I haven’t heard what [Commissioner Day] or [Commission Clerk Kim Keller] found out.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH