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Sheriff Adopts Therapy Dog

June 25, 2020

Sheriff Troy D. Berry is proud to announce the implementation of a new initiative aimed at helping victims of crime in Charles County: the Comfort K9 Program. This program, which has been in the planning phase for several months, will be aimed at providing emotional support to victims of crime, particularly children. The Comfort K9, a Golden Retriever, will work directly with a detective assigned to the Special Victims Unit (SVU) in the Criminal Investigations Division.

Detective Sergeant Kristen Clark, who supervises the SVU, developed the concept for the CCSO’s Comfort K9 Program after researching the work of therapy dogs with other police departments around the country. Research has proven that therapy dogs have increased disclosure rates in children during the forensic interview process from 34% to over 80%. “Our Comfort K9 will assist detectives who are conducting forensic interviews with children or other victims of crime who may need emotional support,” said D/Sgt. Clark. “This canine can also provide comfort for victims who are testifying in court cases.”

K9 Liberty is a 10-month-old female Golden Retriever who received her training at Applejack K9 Academy, home of the Elite Registry of Working Dogs, in Charlotte Hall, MD. She will continue to work with her trainers as she begins her role with the CCSO and transitions to working with her handler, Detective Nina Garner, who serves in the SVU. “We are grateful to the staff at Applejack for the top notch training they have provided Liberty in preparing her for the important work she will do in our community,” said Detective Garner.

“Victims of violent crimes have experienced significant trauma, and we are committed to helping them through the criminal justice process,” said Lieutenant Andrew Schwab, Commander of Persons Crimes. “The Comfort K9 Program will be a vital part of that process, especially for adolescent victims.”

Photos, announcements, and updates about Liberty will be provided on the CCSO Facebook page.

“We are looking forward to working with our new therapy dog partner,” said Sheriff Berry. “She will undoubtedly be a positive addition to the CCSO family and will provide an invaluable service.” The release above was released in April, we announced our new Comfort K9 program and the adoption of Liberty, a Golden Retriever trained to work as a therapy dog. Liberty – a.k.a. “Libby – will be deployed to provide emotional support for victims of crime, particularly children. There is a great deal of training and preparation required to get Libby ready for her new role, so we reached out to Detective Nina Garner, Liberty’s handler, to get an update:

How is Liberty’s training going?
Libby is doing exceedingly well in her training. She is currently learning to retrieve her “baby”, which is a toy, and bring it to a child. She is continuing her training at Applejack once or twice a week, and I work with her a lot at home.

What kinds of things do you practice during training sessions?
Libby’s training consists of a variety of things. These are a few of the things we have done:

-Run her through the obstacle course to gain confidence

-Obedience training

-In the field training (around noise and sounds she has to overcome)

-Change ups (changing up the obedience routine by altering commands and speeds of the command so she does not become complacent)

-Currently working on commands to bring toys to children and lean into them to snuggle them

In the future, we will move into off-leash commands as our bond grows.

When will Liberty be ready to begin working?
For the comfort aspect, Libby was born ready. We just need to fine tune her skills. Depending on the situation, she could be utilized anytime.

What is it going to be like to bring Liberty to work?
Libby has already been to work with me. She gladly hops in the car and away we go. Libby has a bed and plethora of toys in my desk area to play with. Part of Libby’s training is to stay unless I release her to play (a work in progress). Due to this, Libby sleeps and lays around a lot in my desk area. Other people in the office take Libby outside for walks occasionally. She also likes to visit Sergeant Clark for snacks!

How is Liberty adapting to life at home?
Libby is living her best life. A typical day for Libby consists of A LOT of playing with her dog-sister and two ducks. Libby enjoys frolicking in the grass, playing with her toys and getting lots of love from her human companions. On bath days, Libby enjoys getting as muddy as she can and playing in the creek.

What are her favorite “off-duty” activities?
Libby works for attention and toys. The first thing she ever wants to do is put a toy in her mouth and proudly show it to you. She loves running outside to burn some of that puppy energy.

If you had to pick one word to best describe Liberty, what would it be?
Loving. Libby is truly man’s best friend. She lives for cuddles and the human touch.

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