A new member of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was sworn into duty: Mattis K. Nine, a Yellow Lab who becomes the department's first-ever therapy dog. And yes, he's a good deputy.
After the puppy - named "Mattis" after the U.S. Defense Secretary - completed a series of five different types of training, he will begin to accompany Deputy Sheriff Darrah Metz on all of her shifts. Those shifts will include working on community outreach in nursing homes and with veterans, and providing comfort to victims of crime.
“When you have a fuzzy face, it brings a comfort level to people because tactically, they can touch the dog, they can pet the dog. That gives comfort to people,” Metz says. “They don’t have to talk to the dog, or be anything else to the dog. It’s just the dog is very accepting and I think that people find that attractive.”
Mattis’s role in the department was enabled by a $10,000 donation, according to Metz, and began training in April.
Metz says this type of program is uncommon in law enforcement, but it’s gaining traction in a few departments across the country.
“I think that people see a need for it," Metz says. "I think that the community responds very well to it, and that’s the reason why everybody is kind of looking at a new way we can reach out to our community.”
She’s heard from organizations with similar programs in California, Florida, Utah and Illinois, and she’s eager to share insights as they go through the process.
“I’m hoping that we can all work collaboratively together as we’re all sort of starting this process and make it a team effort so that we can get the most out of the program," Metz says.
One important distinction, Metz notes, is between Mattis and the K-9 units that do investigative police work.
“They’re dual-purpose dogs where they can track people, they can sniff out drugs or bombs or what have you," she says, adding with a laugh, "Mattis’s job is simply to bring comfort and to make people smile. That’s pretty much it."
This story was first published in April 2017.