Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Texas New employee at DA’s Office has 4 legs, shed

New employee at DA’s Office has 4 legs, shed

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10:07 pm | Updated: 6:38 am, Wed Sep 19, 2012.
Employees with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office recently welcomed a new, four-legged staff member into their ranks and fellow workers have nothing but positive things to say about him.
Ranger, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador, has been at the office in Conroe for about two months, Victim Assistance Coordinator Pam Traylor said. In that time, Ranger’s had no trouble earning his co-workers’ respect.
“He’s definitely our most popular employee here,” Traylor said.
Ranger acts a service dog for victims of abuse and violent crimes, and helps soothe and relax them when they are speaking with officials or testifying in court, Traylor said.
“When you have children that have to testify about horrific or traumatizing crimes, it can obviously be very scary for them,” chief prosecutor Tyler Dunman said. “Having Ranger around shows us to be not so scary. They can pet the dog, look at him and talk to him, and it gives them something to focus on and direct their attention to.”
Traylor had been researching the use of dogs in courtrooms since about 2007, and attended a number of seminars where dogs were shown to have a positive impact when dealing with juvenile victims. She expressed interest with taking in a dog from the nonprofit organization Texas Hearing and Service Dogs, which takes in rescue dogs and trains them with a system of positive reinforcement.
Texas Hearing and Service Dogs rescued Ranger in 2008, and also trained him as a service dog for a year. Ranger later lived with a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis. However, when the woman became too sick to care for him, Texas Hearing and Service Dogs took Ranger back and contacted Traylor.
“They said they had a perfect dog for us,” Traylor said. “And they were absolutely right.”
The organization provided Ranger for the DA’s Office without any charge. Ranger is always quiet and obeys a wide variety of commands, and is able to sit, stay, shake hands and high five, and can pick things up off the floor if they’ve been dropped, can open drawers and even open doors.
“We found out he could open doors after one day when he simply let himself out of the office,” Traylor said.
Any concerns about a dog being a potential distraction vanished when Ranger arrived at the DA’s Office, Dunman said. It was originally planned to bring him in perhaps once or twice a week, but Ranger now comes to work with Traylor nearly every day, comforting both victims and employees.
“He has a remarkable way of sensing when you’re upset,” Dunman said. “He’ll just come over and calmly lay his head in your lap. Small things like that.”
Ranger has so far met with several victims of abuse and has also helped one juvenile testify in a county attorney’s case, Traylor said.
Last week, Texas Hearing and Service Dogs did an observation of Ranger to check on his progress, and the representatives were very pleased and impressed with his work, Traylor said.
“He has his own bed and his own toys right here in the office,” Traylor said. “He’s just been fantastic and everyone loves him.”
For all of the good Ranger brings to the office and those around him, Traylor said that he comes with only a single, small downside.
“He sheds horribly,” Traylor said with a laugh. “But I guess that’s OK with us.”
An informative video about Ranger made by the Texas Hearing and Service Dogs can be found on YouTube by entering “Ranger – DA dog” into the search box.

A 20-year-old with a service dog is suing Popeye's and Cobb County for discrimination

A 20-year-old with a service dog is suing Popeye's and Cobb County for discrimination.
Taylor Gipson, 20, never goes anywhere without his 3-year-old service dog named Bear.
"Just having your best friend by your side all the time, I don't think I could live without one," Gipson said.
Gipson said he has Type 1 diabetes and Bear is trained to alert him when there are changes to his blood sugar and before encountering a seizure.
"He can smell from my breath when my blood sugar is rising or dropping too quickly and he will alert me when that's happening," Gipson said.
Four months ago, Bear did just that. So Gipson walked in to a Popeye's restaurant on Windy Hill Road in Cobb County to order some food. That's when he said he encountered a rather unusual problem with management.
"It wasn't five minutes after I ordered my food that this manager was right up in my face telling me to get out of her restaurant," Gipson said.
Gipson said the manager told him to leave because his dog was not allowed in the restaurant.  Then she called police.
"The law states that you don't have to explain what your disability is or what the dog is specifically for, just that he is a service dog and I even presented her with a card documenting that he is a service dog and that still wasn't good enough for her," Gipson said.
According to Gipson and his attorney, it wasn't good enough for the police officer either.
"This young man had the American Disabilities information in his hand willing to show it to the officer who said ‘I don't need to be told what the law is, I know it.' He didn't," Gipson's attorney Lee Parks said.
Parks said the incident was exacerbated when Popeye's later said that they asked Gipson to leave the restaurant because he was involved in an altercation with another customer.
"They claimed there was video, there is no video. They claimed there was a witness, there is no witness. It was a bald-faced, malicious lie," Parks said.
Parks is now pursuing legal action against the owner of the Popeye's restaurant and Cobb County. CBS  Atlanta News contacted both for comment today, but the only one talking is Gipson.
"I just don't want to see this happen to somebody else and I want to see other people with service dogs and disabilities treated fairly in the future," Gipson said.
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