CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. - A comfort dog and his handler are the first pair in the first in the country to receive a therapy certification through the United States Police Canine Association after their work with the Chester County community.
Two-year-old Marley works for the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. "He comes along he’s a pretty dog he’s very, very lovable, he’s got that personality that he’ll snuggle up against people," said Sergeant Paul Bryant Jr., Head of K9 Unit, Chester County Sheriff’s Office.
Marley joined the force in early 2020 as a comfort dog right before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It limited his interactions at first but brought an opportunity for a new, national certification with the U.S. Police Canine Association.
No canine team in the country has achieved this certification specific to therapy dogs. Marley and his handler Sergeant Janis Pickell went through months of training.
"There are certain tests that he had to pass where he had to be around certain types of people in the public people from wheelchairs to crutches. He had to do some obedience he has to be able to be around other dogs and not react to them so it was just a lot of temperament things," Pickell said.
Now, the pair can be requested to respond to any major, catastrophic event in Chester County or help someone in crisis at times when authorities may not be the best option.
"That’s the one thing people don’t realize dogs are comforting and Marley definitely is a comfort dog," said Bryant.
Through COVID, Marley stopped at testing clinics and surprised frontline healthcare workers as well as the county justice center.
"He likes to go in and sit in trials and help out the victims that have to testify so really anybody coming in and out of the courthouse that has to be here that makes them nervous or uncomfortable. He is here to give them some comfort," Pickell said. "The sky is the limit for his abilities to be able to soothe anybody who is going through something that is stressful or an issue for them."
Like most law enforcement agencies across the country, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office is constantly working on how to bridge that gap with the community.
"I think Marley would be a great ambassador for Chester County or for all law enforcement to be able to have something that allows people to interact with law enforcement that’s not always negative," said Pickell.
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