Animal Advocate

September 25, 2020

Penny, a spaniel mix who works as a canine advocate for domestic violence victims through Crisis Center North, is nearing retirement.

She was adopted from Action for Animals in Derry Township and attends court dates with victims to provide emotional support. But before she retires, she has one more job.

She needs to train an intern.

Technically,Crisis Center North legal advocate and canine intervention specialist Cheri Herschell does most of the roughly two years of training. But Penny will be on hand to set a good example for Rune, a 2-month-old chocolate Labrador retriever born to one of Herschell’s dogs this summer.

“The program is still prioritizing shelter dogs, but Rune really caught our eye with some of the things she’s shown since birth,” said CCN’s executive director Grace Coleman. “We’ve been really impressed with Rune’s behavior. I think she’s going to do great things.”

Herschell said she has seen the same promise in Rune’s early visits to the Oakdale court of Judge Anthony Saveikis, who has welcomed CCN, its animals and the work its staff does for victims.

“The first thing we look for is a dog that’s very personable,” Herschell said. “It’s a dog that enjoys interacting with people and is naturally drawn to them over other distractions in the environment.”

An active district magistrate court is full of people talking, defendants clinking handcuffs or leg irons, and plenty of opportunities to capture a young puppy’s attention.

“We look for dogs that enjoy a person’s company enough that they’re not distracted by the outside environment,” Herschell said.

Coleman credited Saveikis for bringing in CCN.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity that not many courtrooms would allow,” Coleman said. Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office Spokesman Mike Manko said his department is honored that CCN partnered with them to make the animal advocate program happen.

“In any type of abuse case, including domestic violence cases, the welfare of the victim is paramount,” Manko said. “The contributions made by Penny, Ari and soon Rune toward helping victims deal with the court process, which can be very stressful and even intimidating at times, are as important as anything in the process. Plus, it’s a great example of various segments of the criminal justice system working together for a common goal.”

Herschell began Rune’s training with early neurological stimulation, conditioning the puppy to adjust to, and accept, changes in temperature, pressure, position and overall uncomfortable sensations.

The training, when successful, supports an extremely stable temperament, CCN officials said.

“Rune had a client going through the hearing process, and she did remarkably well,” Herschell said. “When the client was unable to pet her because of the circumstances, Rune went under the chair and laid on her feet.”

Fully training an animal advocate can take up to two years. But Herschell is confident Rune will be successful.

“After we make sure she’s comfortable in court, we’ll move her to a regular schedule where she’ll be going on a weekly basis,” she said.

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    January 8, 2021

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    January 8, 2021

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    January 8, 2021

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    January 7, 2021

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    January 7, 2021

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    January 7, 2021

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more

    Police Dog Attack

    January 7, 2021

    A resolution headed to the Duluth City Council on Monday could put to rest a lawsuit filed by Teri Lynn Ehlers, an employee of the Patch Motel, who was bitten by a Duluth police dog named Oakley. Former Duluth Police Officer Marc Johnson was a registered guest of the Warroad establishment May 28, 2018, when […]

    Read more

    PAWS With A Cause

    January 7, 2021

    Pebble Hill Plantation and the Thomas County Public Library are pleased to announce the upcoming Enlightening Bites program, “PAWS With a Cause,” on Friday, January 8, 2021 at noon in the Flipper Room of the Library. The program is being presented by Jeri Anderson, field representative. Anderson is recently retired from the City of Monticello, […]

    Read more

    Police Canine Team

    January 7, 2021

    Kingston Police revealed in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been keeping a four-legged secret for roughly three months. The force announced it added a second canine unit, with the arrival of police service dog Dak this past October. He is working with Const. Jeff Dickson, while police service dog Bask is working […]

    Read more

    K9s For Warriors

    January 7, 2021

    K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides military veterans suffering from severe PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma with service animals, recently changed the name of its main campus to honor its leader and founder Shari Duval. Duval began K9s For Warriors in 2011 after her son returned from two tours in […]

    Read more

    More Recent News