The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office is joining forces with the Medford branch of national service dog organization Canine Companions. Suffolk County district attorney Raymond Tierney and assistant district attorney Melissa Grier attended a ceremony on Friday, Feb. 10, where eight service dog teams graduated.
Among the graduating class was Grier’s new partner, Tillman III, a 2-year-old Lab/golden retriever cross, specially bred and trained by Canine Companions as a facility dog. Tillman will assist Grier and provide a calming presence to victims, witnesses, and even officers involved in traumatic events at the Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Bureau, in Riverhead.
Following their time with their dedicated volunteer puppy raisers who care for them in their early life stage, Canine Companions’ facility dogs are expertly trained and in a six-month program and eventually partnered with a facilitator working in health care, visitation, education, or law enforcement settings.
Canine Companions’ facility dogs are trustworthy in professional environments and can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire clients with special needs.
Tillman’s experienced puppy raisers, Kathleen Landauer and Jamie Werner, reunited with their beloved dog to celebrate his graduation. Raising and forming a relationship with a dog before saying goodbye when they move on is undoubtedly a challenge, but one that yields substantial rewards for both dogs and humans.
Through tears, Landauer told attendees of the graduation that some of the best aspects of puppy raising include being among a community of devoted trainers, volunteers, and animal lovers, meeting her puppies’ new partners and hearing about the difference they will be making. This, and knowing that the dogs are being sent to “live their best lives,” makes the experience entirely worth the time, energy, and emotion, she said.
Grier completed two weeks of training with the professional trainers at Canine Companions alongside the other members of the graduating class (both two- and four-legged). She and her peers learned the basics of commands, how to care for and handle the dogs on a daily basis, ways to assess their needs, and how to best communicate with them and utilize their skills. This time was also used, of course, for enhancing the bond between handlers and their pups. Now, Tillman is headed to work.
“Primarily, he’s going to be used for the victims,” Grier said of Tillman. “These children are coming, having to talk about the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. It’s such a traumatic experience. To me, it’s going to be able to take some of that trauma out of the situation and give a loving presence, give a soothing presence, a calming presence, so that they feel enabled to talk and to share their story. And getting to know Tillman, he has that temperament. He is just so giving.”
Tillman’s instructor at Canine Companions, Alexis Dowling, said Tillman’s calm temperament, low-management leash style, and ability to maintain a down-stay until he is called made him a clear match for the DA’s Office.
“He really doesn’t react to people’s emotions. He remains calm and keeps a nice, grounding presence,” she said.
Grier said part of the inspiration for her office to apply to be matched with a dog was the proven benefit of the presence of Canine Companions’ alumna facility dog Mega, who came to the Suffolk office from Nassau County toward the middle of 2022. However, Mega has been gearing up to retire from her working career, so Tillman is the first dog that the Suffolk DA’s Office and community will be able to experience long term.
District attorney Tierney said that in his over 30 years of prosecuting, he’s seen the advantages of a dog’s presence for victims, and especially children.
“There’s something about being with a dog, petting a dog. It produces endorphins, and it makes you feel better about things,” he said. “I think anything we can do to bring comfort and maybe a little bit of respite from what’s going on to our victims, it’s our obligation to do so. So, I’m happy to do it. I thank Melissa for undertaking the tremendous responsibility. I know it’ll be a labor of love, but it’s still a tremendous responsibility.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here