Source: By Shannon McFarlin WENK/WTPR News Director
They say dogs are man’s best friend and that certainly is true at the Henry County Juvenile Court, where Tanner, a beautiful Golden Retriever, serves as therapy dog for children who have to appear at the court.
Tanner has been working for the court system for some eight months, since he moved to Henry County with his owners Ken and Barbara Fry. Barbara is also his trainer.
To say that Tanner is the most highly-certified privately-owned canine in Henry County would be an understatement. Starting out with his Star Puppy certification with the AKC, Tanner quickly moved on to the next level and then the level after that. He has achieved his CGC—which stands for Canine Good Citizen—and also holds TDI-A (Therapy Dog International) certification, and his TDI-OV (Outstanding Volunteer) certificate, which he earned after 150 volunteer visits to hospice programs, nursing homes and other facilities.
Barbara said Tanner was initially trained during classes at Rockford, Ill., where the Fry’s lived before moving to Henry County. Ken Fry is retired after a 30-year career as a policeman and Barbara worked in the courthouse at Rockford.
When the Fry’s became settled in at their rural Paris home, Barbara took Tanner around to nursing homes and to the court, volunteering his serves as a therapy dog. Barbara noted how intelligent Tanner is (he knows several hundred words) and is so gentle with people, young and old. “He just learns so quickly,” she said, and also understands hand signals.
The juvenile court was especially receptive to having Tanner work for them. Judge Vicki Snyder is an animal lover and she has seen first-hand the calming effect that animals—especially dogs—have on people.
The local court used to have a puppy program—the “Puppy Pal” program—in which the sheriff’s office animal shelter brought puppies to the court on days when children were at court to calm them down before they had to appear on cases. Puppies are no longer available regularly and that program was discontinued, Snyder said.
“We’d been wanting to find a dog or dogs to work with the children again and we found just what we needed in Tanner,” Snyder said. “It’s just a blessing to everyone here.”
Tanner alleviates the fears children have when they’re in court, but Snyder said Tanner also has a calming effect on court staff and attorneys.
“He’s just a real blessing,” she said.