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K-9 Jersey is on duty

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Jersey, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department therapy K-9 and handler Jennifer Yuhase are on duty at the Belmont County Courthouse. Jersey recently completed training in Columbus.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Jersey, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department therapy K-9, and handler Jennifer Yuhase did the county proud when they attended training at National K-9 in Columbus.

Now 2½ years old, the St. Bernard has been a welcome presence at the courthouse. Regular training of such a dog is essential.

“We all strive to make our dogs better partners,” Yuhase said. “The more the dogs trust us, the more they’ll do what we ask them to do. When we do the agility courses and we do the skills that are a little more difficult for the normal dogs to do, it builds a trust with us, so they know we would never put them in a position that we can’t control.”

Yuhase said she and Jersey try to go to Franklin County every three months and train with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, which coordinates the program. Their recent visit occurred March 25.

“This is the first training we’ve had since September. Between the holidays and COVID it kind of bumped us back a bit,” Yuhase said, adding there were some training sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but participants maintained their social distance.

Yuhase said a therapy dog requires obedience skills, and a K-9 Good Citizen certification.

“Most therapy dog training, it’s the dog’s temperament that comes first, then the obedience training,” she said. “If they don’t have the temperament, they’re not going to have that calm demeanor to know when they need to be used or not.”

Yuhase said Jersey is suited to the work.

“She’s very empathetic,” the deputy said, recalling a recent incident in which someone was crying during a juvenile court case. Jersey gravitated to the distressed person. “I can’t teach her that. She’s very empathetic. She knows when people are upset.”

It is also quickly evident that Jersey loves children and babies.

Jersey’s primary use is in helping young victims of crime during the legal process, but there have not been many trials recently.

“Our prosecutor’s office has been doing a very good job as far as their prosecution of cases, so Jersey hasn’t been utilized in court that much,” Yuhase said. “When we do have the trials, she sits with the victims. She sat with some pretrial interviews.”

Jersey has earned an Urban K-9 Good Citizen certificate, a Community K-9 certificate and a Therapy certificate through Alliance Therapy Dogs.

Also in training March 25 were the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s therapy dog unit of three K-9s. The Columbus Police Department has five therapy dogs in its unit.

“Therapy K-9s are relatively new in the country. There’s only about 150 of them right now that are certified through law enforcement. The dog she trains with in Columbus, Mattis, he’s the first therapy K-9 in the state,” Yuhase said. “I’m honored to get in there and work with them, because they started the program.”

Jersey will attend training again on June 24.

“It’s an honor to bring her to work, and it’s an honor to see how many people she makes smile on a daily basis.”

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