- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - A rescue dog with a special gift for calming children has become one of the favorite staff members at Hamilton Center Child and Adult Services.

Hawkeye, a 3-year-old white German Shepherd, seems to make friends wherever he goes in the building - among the staff as well as the young people he meets.

“He makes my day better,” an elementary-age boy said Feb. 15 as he petted Hawkeye.

“He’s my favorite kind of dog,” the boy continued as he and others stroked the soft fur of the mild-mannered Hawkeye. “He’s big. He’s white. He’s kind. I like how he looks.”

Hawkeye’s handler, care manager supervisor Cynthia Rotman, smiled as children reached out to her gentle canine friend in the lobby of the Child and Adolescent Services building.

“How does he make you feel?” Rotman asked the boy.

“Happy,” he said.

With his calm nature and love of children, Hawkeye is a popular fellow. He is a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International.

Rotman has been bringing Hawkeye to work with her for more than a month now, as a result of about two years of training for both Rotman and the 110-pound dog.

He visits with groups of children and has some one-on-one therapy time with others, some of whom are diagnosed with autism or ADHD. Other children have experienced trauma or other crisis situations.

“We’ve had a couple of kids who come in upset, and he just does his thing,” Rotman said of Hawkeye. “He either stands there, or he lies there and lets them pet him. It’s amazing to see his calming nature.”

Rotman first met Hawkeye at the Sullivan County Humane Society shelter. She and her husband live in Greene County and rescue German Shepherd dogs.

She said she saw potential in the big friendly dog to work as a therapy dog. So, she enrolled him in a program with Both Ends of the Leash in Sullivan, which provides canine obedience and good manners training for both dogs and their owners.

Hawkeye passed tests and evaluations by a certified therapy dog evaluator as preparation for his day job. Rotman brings him to work with her on Mondays.

Rotman admits that the training was as important for her as it was for Hawkeye. She can tell where he wants to go as they walk together through the hallways to her office.

With a visitor present on Feb. 15, he walked directly to his large bed and cage and waited for instructions.

“When Hawkeye is working, he is very tuned in to his surroundings — how he is feeling and how people are reacting to him,” Rotman said. “My job is to make him available and to teach people how to appropriately interact with him.”

He recently worked at the Night To Shine event, a prom for people with special needs.

“He was in the quiet room,” Rotman said of Hawkeye’s purpose that night. “He just calms people.”

His “payment” for the therapy he provides is an order of chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A.

Rotman said the dog seems happy with the arrangement, and she is pleased Hawkeye is having a positive impact for clients.

“It’s just another way we help kids here at the Child and Adolescent Services,” she said.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/2kNTxaQ

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com


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