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Nora The Therapy Dog

August 4, 2020

There is a new staff member at the Marion Municipal Court and her name is Nora. Her job focuses on helping people, both staff members and the public, feel less stress. With her happy face and engaging personality she is the perfect candidate for the job. Did we mention Nora is a dog? She is an adorable 13-week-old Bernadoodle who has been in Marion for a little over four weeks.

Nora came to Marion from the Buckeye Ridge breeders in Glouster, Ohio, like her cousin Chip, who works with the Marion Police Department. Both are comfort/therapy dogs and were made possible to the community thanks to grants at the Marion Community Foundation. The Ron & Laura Scharer Fund made Nora possible for the court, and the Whetstone Financial Fund helped the Marion Police Department acquire K-9 Chip.

“We love dogs and know their ability to bring comfort in stressful times” said Laura Scharer, a long-time dog owner. “I think all dogs are good therapy.”

Research shows that comfort dogs have many positive effects on people. Their presence can lower blood pressure and release endorphins, creating a calming effect on people’s moods. The Bernadoodle breed is perfect for this job, getting the best characteristics of the Bernese mountain dog and the poodle. They are known to be highly intelligent, hard-working, have good tempers, love being with people and are hypoallergenic. This means people are less likely to have an allergic reaction to Nora and there will be less shedding in the court.

Nora’s father was a Bernadoodle and her mom was Bernese mountain dog, giving her a great start for her job. “She loves to come to work,” shared Coral Fitsko, Marion Muncipal Court’s Civil Division deputy clerk and the person Nora goes home with each night. “ She is gets very excited when she knows it is time to come to work. The staff enjoys seeing her as well.”

Nora, whose name means “honor,” will receive three training courses over the next year, ranging from basic obedience to full therapy training. When fully trained as an emotional support dog, she will be a calming presence throughout the Marion Municipal Court and the probation office areas for staff, witnesses and other court visitors.

“We want people to feel comfortable while in the court; many are dealing with tough issues in their lives, like addiction,” said Judge Teresa Ballinger. “My goal has been to assist individuals going through these problems to find ways to successfully make changes for a better future. After over 15 years in the court, I have found it is important that we seem approachable to better support these individuals.”

Nora is part of that solution. If she can to allow people to relax, they can concentrate on what they need to do to make changes in their lives. After she receives all of her shots, she will slowly begin to spend time in the court and probation offices.

But life is not all work for Nora. When we met her she was having a great day with new adventures. She had met K-9 Chip earlier for the first time. Nora then discovered “another dog” in the office when she saw herself in the mirror. She reacted with her first barks in the office. Nora has been so quiet there that her barks brought Probation Clerk Bevin Peppard to see Nora bark. All laughed at Nora’s antics. You can tell she is well-loved.

Nora has a pink squeaky monkey toy at work, but at home her favorite toy is a squeaky duck. There she gets to play with Fitsko’s Wheaton terrier and the neighbor’s Bernese mountain dog. Nora has her favorite people at work, who might give her extra treats and belly rubs. Judge Ballinger is trying to keep Nora from gaining too much puppy weight, but it might be an uphill battle.  Full grown Nora will be between 65-75 pounds and be able to work a good eight to nine years before retiring. So the people of Marion will get many opportunities to make friends with the delightful Nora.

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