Wisconsin Rapids, Wis (WFHR, WIRI)
Inmates at the Wood County Jail will soon have a new therapy dog to help brighten their days. Lt. Wagner brought the puppy, Lola, to the WFHR studio to talk about her new position. She said they’ll both be attending obedience training for Lola to become licensed as a therapy dog.
Lola’s journey to join the Sheriff’s Department
Sheriff Shawn Becker said the Marshfield Police Department contacted him after the puppy was offered to them by a breeder in Marathon County. Marshfield Police Chief Jody Geurink contacted Sheriff Becker as their department already has a therapy dog. Sheriff Becker said he brought the idea to the Sheriff’s Department to see if it would be a good fit for the county. By chance, he was talking with Lt. Wagner and she said having a therapy dog is something she’s been wanting to incorporate into their programming for the last 5-10 years. Sheriff Becker said they’re very lucky. They received a grant for their K9 Unit from the Legacy Foundation and this perfectly fits their initiative expanding their mental health initiatives.
What is a therapy animal?
Lt. Wagner explains that a therapy animal provides emotional support for people who are in distress. They also can help in a crisis situation. Lola will give the inmates something positive to focus on. She’ll remind them of their own pets at home and give encouragement during their rehabilitation. Lt. Wagner said therapy animals love getting pets and attention.
Lola is the right dog for the position of therapy dog
Lola is an 11-week-old black Labrador. She’s still very much in puppy stage, so she loves chewing on things and sleeping. Lt. Wagner said they didn’t pick out Lola, the breeder chose her for her relaxed and loving nature. She said therapy dogs have been proven to lower blood pressure and improve morale. Everyone loves to see Lola when she comes into a room. Lt. Wagner said Lola helps inmates destress before difficult events like attending court.
Therapy dogs and a focus on mental health can help society
James talked with Sheriff Becker about how to address the revolving door of repeat offenders. Many different strategies have been tried over the years and failed. Now, departments are focusing more on why people are committing crimes and realizing that mental health is a large part of that. Sheriff Becker said they’ve focused initiatives the past few years on educating their law enforcement, deputies, and corrections officers on mental health and addiction issues. The sheriff said before he retires, mental health initiatives will be expanded on. Sheriff Becker is proud of the department and the steps they’ve taken and continue to take to work on addiction and mental health issues in the community and with those in custody. He’s very happy that Susanna was willing to bring in Lola and train her to help in the community and the jail.
Links to the full interview
You can find the full interview with Lt. Susanna Wagner, Sheriff Shawn Becker and Lola on our website under the show Mid-Day Magazine on February 7th.
The interview with video can be found on the Wisconsin Rapids Community Media YouTube channel or at this link:
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