By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
“We’re going to the dogs,” said Garden Grove City Councilwoman Stephanie Klopfenstein as she introduced the “Walk a Mile in My Paws” program Thursday evening that put the spotlight on the emotional support canines that have drawn lot of praise and head-pats in recent months.
The event was organized and hosted by the Garden Grove Neighborhood Association and held in the Community Meeting Center.
Front and center were three Garden Grove Police Officers – handlers of the dogs – and their four-legged sidekicks – Officer Derek Link (Nellie), Officer Pat Julienne (Misha) and Corporal Adam Zmija (Heart).
The gentle and affectionate dogs have proved useful in calming people, relieving moments of stress and even in opening communications between students and the dog handlers, who are also school resource officers serving GGUSD high and schools (and other campuses) in Garden Grove.
In addition to mellowing out students – and school staff – in Garden Grove, the dogs and their handlers traveled to Uvalde, Texas to provide emotional support in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school that took the lives of 21 people, including 19 pupils.
“We were there the day after,” recalled Officer Julienne. “It was heartbreaking to be there,” but the dogs were successful in comforting survivors and family.
Emotional support dogs can also help police gather information that helps solve a crime or apprehend a suspect.
Victims and witnesses, once calmed by the presence of the dogs, can help those being questioned by police recall as much as 80 percent of what occurred.
“And all they want is treats and love,” said Corporal Zmija.
But there are some costs and none of it comes from the taxpayers’ pockets.
“No city money goes into this program,” said Officer Link. “All of it: food, medical care, equipment is paid for by donations.”
Those donations are raised by the John Reynolds Youth Support Canine Foundation. At Thursday’s event there were plushie replicas of each of the three dogs, “baseball” cards featuring them, etc. for purchase to benefit the cause.
Lt. Reynolds was a popular, dog-centric GGPD police officer who died in 2021 at the age of 59. His widow, Jenna, operates the foundation.
There was a raffle to raise more cash and lots of time for The Tail-Wagging Trio to make friends and get fussed over by the 35 or so people in attendance.
To donate to the program, go to www.jryouthsupportk9.org .
Categories: Garden Grove
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