- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

OZARK, Ala. (AP) - There is something very different about the newest Dale County Juvenile Court officer. First of all, she learned her job while in prison.

Her name is Kit, and she is the first four-legged court officer in Alabama.

Kit’s journey to becoming a member of the department began with input from the late David Grice, a Dale County probation officer, who was very familiar with the benefits a service dog could bring to children of all ages.

“When the information about a court dog was brought up, believe me I was the biggest skeptic about this working,” said Dale County Juvenile Probation Officer Jeremy Varney. “Now I am Kit’s biggest supporter. I am pleased to have her serve as my partner.”

Kit, who is three years old, was rescued by Service Dogs of Alabama. After being rescued, Kit was taken to a women’s prison in Alabama where she went through more than a year of training. After that, she completed another two-and a-half years of training before joining the department.

“Before Kit was released from her training, it had to be determined all the skills she needed to do her job successfully was comprehended, and she was compatible for the environment she would be working in,” Varney said. “I can honestly say she is very good at her job. She has several duties as court officer, and she takes her job very seriously.

“Kit is beneficial in many areas involving children in Dale County,” Varney said. “If we have a child who is in trouble and we need to get to the bottom of what is causing this child to act-out, Kit comes in. She is trained to approach the child, and show the child he or she is not alone. Kit breaks the ice and tears down the walls between me and that child. She removes the anxiety and stress. The child focuses more on her, and the child tends to talk more with me. She is also very beneficial to children when it comes to an abuse case. A child is already scared to death when they have to discuss all the details about being abused. Kit helps by giving comfort to that child. She will walk over to a child, put her head on their lap and the child will slightly pet Kit. Kit shows that child they are not alone. She is right by that child’s side. No matter what that child may say, Kit is there showing that child comfort. She will also sit by a child on the stand and provide comfort. It is really amazing to see Kit work with the children, especially in court.”

When it comes time to leave work Kit’s day may be over, but her partnership with Varney is ongoing.

“I am lucky,” Varney said. “Not only do I get to enjoy Kit at work, I get to enjoy her at home as well. She knows while she is suited up in her gear, she must work and use her training. However, when I take her gear off, she knows she is off work and it is time to play. My daughter and Kit have made a bond that is amazing, not to mention the bond I have with her. She is definitely something.”

Kit was made possible to the Dale County Juvenile Probation Department by a grant through the Service Dogs of Alabama.

“Service Dogs of Alabama is a great organization,” Varney said. “Each dog they train is a rescued dog. They operate by grants and donations. Not only is Service Dogs of Alabama helping the animal, they help the inmates in prison. The inmates are involved in training the animals. In return the inmates understand the skills they are teaching the dogs are helping so many. They have a purpose. Finally, the Service Dogs of Alabama helps the children by providing dogs like Kit to other departments.”

Kit will serve with Varney until her four-year contract expires. At that time Kit will officially belong to Varney.

“Depending on her health after four years, she can be recertified, or she can retire and enjoy spending time with me and my daughter,” Varney said. “We will have to just wait and see how she is feeling at the end of her contract.”

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Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com


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