TCSO Introduces K9 Outreach Program
The Tyler County Sheriff’s Office joined forces with the Tyler County Board of Education and the Tyler County Commission to roll out an innovative social and emotional support program for county’s school-aged children.
Recently, Sgt. Mitch Corley introduced the department’s newest K9 to the community. But Buddy, a spunky Labrador Retriever, is no ordinary K9 he is a therapy dog whose only mission is to provide comfort and support to the people he interacts with daily.
While service dogs are trained to provide specific support to individuals with disabilities, therapy animals are trained to react and respond to people and their environment under the direction of their handler. Sgt. Corley hopes Buddy’s presence in schools will help positively reinforce the rapport he and his fellow resource officers have built with the students while providing solace to those in need of extra support.
“Therapy dogs have been used as a tool for students in the wake of school shootings and other tragic events in the past,” Sgt. Corley explained. “There is data to suggest that dogs like Buddy can help reduce stress during the school day and provide a sense of connection during difficult situations. With the rise of substance abuse, domestic violence, and other domestic issues throughout our community, my hope is this program will provide support and stability to students who desperately need additional resources and the simple comforts only an animal can provide.”
Tyler County Sheriff Brian Weigle and Chief Deputy Shannon Huffman were instrumental in helping Sgt. Corley move the outreach project to fruition. “When [Mitch] approached me with this idea I thought it was great,” Weigle said. “One of our goals as a department is to foster positive interaction between the deputies and the young people in Tyler County. I believe this program will help our officers build trust with the students and create an overall sense of calmness and well-being in the school.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the introduction of the program in the school, but Buddy has been active in the community. The K9 is considered a full-time employee and will attend school every day when classes resume. Sgt. Corley and Buddy will make their rounds in both elementary schools, while operating out of their home office at Tyler Consolidated.
Buddy received his emotional support training from Ultimate Working Dogs in St. Albans, WV and has been raised in a school-like atmosphere, around multiple people. Sgt. Corley and Chief Deputy Huffman will continue to train the K9 locally and have considered expanding his skills to include tracking. “If a child was lost in our area it would be beneficial to have a dog on hand with great tracking skills,” Sgt. Corley noted. “Buddy has already shown promise in this area and I am hopeful we can hone this ability to further benefit the community.”
Although it’s too soon to determine the impact this outreach program will have in Tyler County, one thing is certain: Buddy takes his mission to love his “humans” very seriously.