A new four-legged volunteer will be assisting the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in relieving stress in victims of traumatic events.
The first community support dog in the Sheriff’s Office is a 5-year-old yellow lab named Sugar. She’ll be helping calm a people in crisis and represent the office at community events.
“As we thought about the uses of a community support canine, the list kept growing,” Commander Paul Lenzmeier said.
The Sheriff’s Office intends to deploy Sugar and her owner Holly Schultz to aid in situations where someone may be in the midst of a mental health crisis or suffering from trauma.
“We have child interviews that are done here at the Sheriff’s Office, and a lot of times those kids have high anxiety coming in and talking to strangers,” Lenzmeier said.
If deputies know ahead of time that a child will be coming in, they’ll ask the family if Sugar may help calm them beforehand.
Sugar also will help families suffering through tragedies, like a house fire, where the dog can help ease a family’s discomfort.
She will assist during public events where the public can meet with her as well.
“It’s kind of polar opposite from our current K-9 program where we say, ‘Keep back, stay away from our K-9s,’” Lenzmeier said. “In this program we encourage somebody to pet Sugar and interact with them.”
Sugar is a retired service dog and is a certified therapy dog having earned her canine good citizen accreditation.
She was certified by passing tests, like ignoring candy or fresh salmon left on the floor without trying to eat it.
“She’d have to walk by and with one command walk over everything and not grab anything on the floor,” Schultz said. “It’s just so she could be in a public place and behave.”
She came from Guiding Eyes in New York but was transferred to Can Do Canines in New Hope as a breeding dog whose puppies are trained as service dogs.
“Now she’s got a dog in Hong Kong who started up a guide dog program there, and then she’s got a client in Hong Kong, so another one of her puppies went to a client as a guide dog,” Schultz said.
Schultz cared for Sugar as a volunteer whelping home and adopted her after Sugar was retired from the breeding program. She decided to reach out to the Sheriff’s Office, because she noticed that Sugar was getting bored in her retirement.
“I really noticed that she wanted to be out in the community more, because she was used to that,” Schultz said. “In training we brought her out everywhere.”
So she sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Office to pitch her idea. Schultz’s role is a volunteer position, and she hopes it will raise awareness of the possibilities of support dogs in other communities, she said.
Sugar is expected to make her first appearance during events in December. She’ll be visiting schools and other locations to introduce her services to the community.