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New therapy K9 supports Liberty County students

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:46 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Anna, a two-year-old Blue Heeler, is bringing new meaning to her name. She’s taking on a new role supporting kids in Liberty County.

Anna is a recent graduate of the Paws and Stripes program in Brevard County, which trains rescue dogs in to law enforcement therapy dogs. She’s the first therapy K9 in the panhandle.

The Blue Heeler now lights up classrooms in the Liberty County School District as she helps make students feel safe.

“She’ helps a lot when I’m working,” said Hosford Elementary student Chace Kever. “I’ll do something that I have no idea how to do, and she’ll just want in and be like, I know how to do this now.”

Alongside her handler, Sergeant Chad Smith, the two are now a certified law enforcement investigation therapy K9 team.

Now she spends her days visiting classrooms and easing stress.

But Anna also provides support for kids going through a crisis. Smith says she’s already making a difference.

The Sergeant remembers one student, who at one point was too nervous or uneasy to interact with the resource officers.

“While she as petting Anna she looked up and told me, Mr. Chad I have anxiety. Without me asking her she told me why she doesn’t respond to me. Every since then, even without Anna she talks to me,” Smith said. “It just opens that door of communication.”

The therapy K9 is also helping to build positive relationships between students and law enforcement.

With each classroom visit, Anna is helping to inspire confidence or students to succeed.

“Whenever Anna comes in she makes me feel more confident, that I can do my tests very well,” said Hosford Elementary student Joely Bennett. “It just releases the stress over my shoulders.”

Right now Anna is on a trial run, but eventually the sheriff’s office would like to have therapy dogs at each school.

Smith added that eventually Anna will be deployed in cases involving child victims, in order to provide comfort and support, and ease children during interview processes.

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