Tucker, a therapy pup assigned to Ravenna Police Officer Steve Lincoln, gets to know the children of Ravenna and is there to help them if they are going through a tough time.
Lincoln, the police department’s school resource officer, was assigned to Tucker, an Australian labradoodle, just before school ended for the summer. The dog is now 14 weeks old. He and Tucker continue to visit Ravenna Summer School as well as day camps run by Ravenna Parks and Recreation and special events, such as the recent June 19 festival.
An anonymous donor provided the department with the money to purchase Tucker. Community donors have also provided funds for the police department’s K-9 program, and two more dogs are expected to join the service soon.
Lincoln said the dog’s job is to help kids “find the reset button” and calm them down if they have behavioral issues or are stressed for any reason. The dog will also be used to comfort people who have been victims of crime or who have suffered trauma of any kind, and will also help first responders themselves.
Tucker and Lincoln receive regular training across the Franklin County Therapy Dog Program. Lincoln said the training is simply obedience training at this point, but Tucker will eventually be certified as a therapy dog.
There is a growing movement to get therapy dogs into the hands of first responders to help with trauma. Franklin County began training therapy dogs in 2017.
Lincoln said he visited a rancher in the Toledo area and spent time with Tucker and his siblings. As the other puppies greeted him eagerly, Lincoln said he noticed Tucker had a calming presence that was “like a weighted blanket.” A few weeks later, Tucker joined him in Ravenna.
In addition to calming the children, the dog was also able to calm the teachers who had a stressful weekend, Lincoln said.
Tucker, Lincoln said, senses when someone is having a stressful day and immediately sits down with them to calm them down. Studies have shown that petting a furry animal reduces stress levels, he noted.
“He must think I’m having a bad day,” Lincoln recently told Ravenna City Council members as the dog sat between his feet.
Ryann Kuchenbecker, executive director of the Ravenna Region Chamber of Commerce, recently welcomed Tucker and Lincoln into her office. She said the dog brings a bit of joy to everyone he meets.
“Everybody needs a Tucker,” she said.
Journalist Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or [email protected]