K-9 Lincoln to bring calming presence in sheriff's office calls
“Lincoln will give you a kiss, lay his head on your lap or put his paws on your legs for you to hug him if you want,” Goddard said when meeting with a victim. “He will show you affection and he will
He was born March 2017, but he already wears a Crow Wing County sheriff’s badge.
He — a four-legged Labrador retriever named Lincoln — is Sheriff Scott Goddard’s new partner, who wears a tan and brown county sheriff’s office uniform specially made for him with a badge.
Lincoln is not like other K-9s who work in law enforcement whose job is to chase down suspects, find missing people or to locate drugs. Lincoln was bred as a service dog to help calm people in stressful situations, such as being a victim of a crime.
“Lincoln is trained to provide a calming presence in a room,” Goddard said. “When we are having a bad day — as we have a number of calls that oftentimes end up with very dramatic outcomes — to have the ability to have Lincoln in the room … to assist in providing a calming presence is useful to everyone in the room.”
Sheriff’s office leaders decided to get Lincoln after having lengthy discussions with staff, which led to wanting a service-orientated dog that could assist in helping victims of a crime or a child or person with a mental illness dealing with a stressful situation.
Lincoln came from a nonprofit organization in Hopkins called Helping Paws that deals with golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers. Helping Paws began breeding dogs to assist veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. The organization then expanded to breeding dogs, such as Lincoln, to be facility dogs. These animals work in visitation, education, treatment or therapeutic settings or as courthouse facility dogs to provide a calming effect on children or adults during stressful court proceedings. According to Helping Paws website, “These dogs prove on a daily basis that service can take many paths to success. Dogs may help teens feel more comfortable opening up to a therapist or provide emotional comfort to a patient confined to a hospital bed. Health professionals often note that the dogs seem to sense when a snuggle or a romp is called for, and can provide the nudge of motivation that helps an individual in critical moments.”
After a site visit and conducting personal background checks, Helping Paws chose Lincoln, who was born March 29, 2017, to be a perfect dog for the sheriff’s office. Lincoln was trained by his foster dad, a retired St. Paul firefighter, who exposed Lincoln to some of the noises he would encounter at the sheriff’s office, such as sirens and alarms. Lincoln remains calm when in a loud or stressful environment, thus providing a comfortable and calming presence to others.
Lincoln came home with Goddard in November and they have since gotten to know each other and are learning each other’s jobs. Lincoln knows about 75 cues for tasks, such as turning light switches on and off, opening doors and drawers and knowing when to cuddle or kiss.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Goddard said, noting Helping Paws has never placed a dog in a sheriff’s office environment. Service dogs are trained to listen and take cues from their handlers, so Lincoln’s focus is on Goddard. However, the sheriff’s office wants the dog to be social with others when in public, while at the same time staying focused on his handler and ready for when a task arrives.
“We are trying to find that happy medium, so we are taking very slow steps.”
Goddard said baby steps began by taking Lincoln to visit with students in the Pine River-Backus School District. The sheriff hopes to bring Lincoln to more schools in the county in the new year, as well as any organization that would want to meet him who may need to have a calming dog presence. If any group wants to meet Lincoln, they can call the sheriff’s office to set up an appointment at 218-829-4749.
“Our goal is for kids to remember him,” Goddard said. “I’ve already seen a positive influence where Lincoln has been. The public has been impressed by him and they recognize he is part of our team.”
Goddard, who said Lincoln also has had a calming effect on himself, brought the dog to the courthouse last week while meeting with a victim of a crime.
“Lincoln will give you a kiss, lay his head on your lap or put his paws on your legs for you to hug him if you want,” Goddard said. “He will show you affection and he will try to help everyone. He will be at the level of comfort that person will share with him.”
The sheriff said, for instance, a child with autism may not be comfortable with having a service dog in their face but would be happy to hold onto its leash, which may be comforting to the child. As Lincoln becomes more aware of his duties in the sheriff’s office, Goddard would like to have him in the room when taking statements from people involved in tragic vehicle crashes. If a child’s parents are injured, Lincoln could spend time with the child during the dramatic, stressful time.
While at home, Goddard said Lincoln — when out of uniform — acts like a normal dog. Goddard said Lincoln does get along with his 8-year-old Labrador named Reload. He said it was a transition for the two dogs at first, but they are “best buddies” now.
JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.