Augusta’s Morning News with John Patrick & Mary Liz Nolan

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The Aiken Department of Public Safety has welcomed its newest member of the family, Oakley.

The nine-month-old Rottweiler and Hound mix is currently undergoing training. He will become a dedicated therapy dog for the department, under the guidance of his handler, Lieutenant Jennifer Hayes.

Oakley was adopted recently from the SCPA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.  His primary focus will be within the Aiken Department of Public Safety offering vital emotional support to team members.

“With studies documenting the positive effect dogs can have on physical and emotional health, we believed that introducing a therapy dog into our department was the next logical step in our ongoing commitment to the mental health of our department personnel,” said Chief Charles Barranco.

In addition to providing support to the department’s team members, Oakley will also provide support services at hospitals, schools and various other city departments.

Things therapy dogs can help with and do:

  • Processing traumatic events
  • Lessening impact of job-related stress
  • Positive interactions with those served and community as a whole
  • Help build rapport and engagement between individuals/community, and professionals
  • Provide affect and comfort in anxiety provoking situations
  • Help to make difficult topics easier to explore by applying parallels with the dog
  • Work alongside their handler as a team to improve lives
  • Be adorable, cuddly, and make people laugh!

Research has also shown that therapy dogs can decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve mood just from being around the animal.  In the community, therapy dogs can be cross-trained to interact with victims’ families or witnesses, in homeless and domestic violence shelters, recruitments fairs and with members of the community.

Authorities say an anonymous donor is covering the cost of all of Oakley’s training and living expenses in support of the department’s mission in Aiken.

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