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The Arapahoe County sheriff swore in two new therapy dogs and it was as cute as you could imagine

Otis and Bear join the ranks as newest school therapy dogs working in the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office
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Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-21 01:59:40-04

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo — The Arapahoe County sheriff swore in two new recruits Thursday.

Otis and Bear, two 8-week-old Labrador puppies, now join the sheriff's office ranks as therapy dogs to protect and serve the students in some Colorado schools.

Otis and Bear join Arapahoe County's three other school therapy dogs including Rex, Zeke and Riley. The pups bring comfort to students, reducing stress in times of crisis and assist children with social needs, in addition to those with anxiety and depression.

Arapahoe County sheriff swears in two adorable therapy dogs

Otis will patrol the Byers School District 32-J and the Deer Trail 26J School District with his partner- the school's current resource officer Deputy Drew Matthews. The pair will divide their time between the two K-12 schools in Byers and Deer Trail.

Bear will be teamed up with Deputy Candace Gray to look after the Cherry Creek School District. Bear is the district's second therapy dog.

Deputy Gray is the first female K9 handler in the history of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. She is married to Deputy John Gray, who works with Rex in Littleton Elementary Schools. Rex was the sheriff's office first therapy dog.

"These dogs are helping kids in ways we couldn’t have imagined. They’re making a huge impact in their mental health and touching lives in very positive and meaningful ways,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office now has more school therapy dogs than any other law enforcement agency in Colorado.

The need for emotional support within schools is great, according to data on student mental health. A report from the Centers for Disease Control found 42 percent of students felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, 29 percent experienced poor mental health, and 22 percent said they had seriously considered suicide.

“As students are navigating coming back from the pandemic — being back in school, making new friendships — it’s been stressful,” said Cherry Creek Academy Vice Principal Annemarie Mahon. “So much so, that we’ve added additional support in our staff to proactively reach out to our kids.”

Deputy Gray said having Bear with her will allow students to feel safer coming to school and, when needed, to have difficult conversations.

“Usually the dogs will do something silly that usually gets [students] to crack a smile, and then it starts a conversation,” she said. “They’ll start talking more about what might be bothering them, or what has them worried or upset… I think there’s just a lot of uncertainty with what’s been going on in schools with school shootings and maybe they don’t feel safe, or they think that law enforcement is just there to arrest them. So having the therapy dogs in the schools has helped.

“Maybe we sit down and have a conversation about a mistake they might have made, and walk them through what better decisions they could have made. A lot of times, they feel better with the dog, because they have something to kind of distract them.”

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