EAGLE COUNTY — About once a week, the Eagle County jail goes to the dogs and the dogs couldn’t be happier about it.
Neither could the inmates and staff.
Most Mondays for the past three years Kendra Scott, one of leaders of the local 4-H dog program, brings in a dog or two. She and Capt. Bill Kaufman, of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, work together ti make it happen.
This is the program’s third year. It started when Scott and Kaufman were talking at a local 4-H event. Kendra asked, “What you think about bringing therapy dogs into the jail?”
It’s sometimes referred to as the Eagle County Crossbar Hotel, but it’s not really about guest services. Still, Kaufman liked the idea.
“As an administrator our job is to make it as safe and hospitable as possible,” Kaufman said.
“Human beings need touch,” Kaufman said. “One thing inmates don’t get is human contact. It’s a small community and the humanity and compassion of someone like Kendra and her animals makes a difference in so many lives.”
They always ask before they bring a dog into a pod of cells. Someone might be allergic.
But here’s the real deal. For most of these people, the only dogs they’ve encountered were from the K-9 unit, sniffing for drugs, weapons or contraband — not exactly the foundation for trust.
The dogs have to be socialized and have K-9 Good Citizen training.
‘DOGS KNOW WHAT PEOPLE NEED’
Inmates play with them; so do guards. They’ve seen people battling depression just sit there while the dog curled up in their lap.
“The dogs seem to know what people need,” Scott said.
Some of the inmates have issues with ADD, so she brought in a border collie and some ducks. Inmates and staff alike loved watching the dog herd those ducks.
On this particular day, Scott brought in Addie, a toy Australian shepherd. One of the first stops was to visit Rachel Brown; they were happy to see each other.
“The days are a little slow, and it helps the time go by to play with an animal that has nothing but happy spirits,” Brown said.
How often the dogs come in depends on Scott’s schedule. It’s been calving season on the ranch and that’s how they make their living, so it’s been a while between visits.
Addie does four tricks, and one of course is playing dead. The hand command is making your fingers look like a pistol, like you used to do when you were a kid, before the politically correct patrol decided finger pistols were a gateway to bigger things, like elbow bazookas.
Anyway, one inmate did the hand command three times and Addie didn’t play dead.
“I must be missing something,” the inmate joked.
Diesel the Doberman is another favorite at the jail.
“It was good for them to see something so muscled and strong that’s so gentle and loving,” Scott said.
She said it’s a rewarding program. Even if it’s just 15 minutes with a dog, everyone feels better.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.