If you notice a sweet, young chocolate lab prancing through the halls of Akron Children’s Hospital, there’s a good chance you just met Chase. Handled by Officer Ramona Caley, Chase is an officer in training with Akron Children’s Hospital’s Department of Public Safety. She’s working to be both a bomb sniffing dog and a therapy dog.
Home of the nation’s second oldest dog therapy program dubbed the Doggie Brigade (sponsored by Milk-bone), it is not surprising that Akron Children’s will also be one of the first children’s hospitals to have a working dog that also does double duty as a therapy dog. Chase will be trained to do bomb scent detection work but will also be socialized and taught good manners so she can greet patients, staff and visitors as a reward for a job well done.
“It is a new world we live in and we need to be prepared to respond as soon as we can to locate a perceived threat at the hospital,” said Chief of Public Safety Jerome Klue. “We are hoping to set best practices for canines with this innovative program.”
Chase is a chocolate Labrador Retriever born on July 23 at Chilbrook Kennels in Harpers Ferry, WV. She lives with Officer Caley’s family. In fact, Officer Caley’s husband, Joe, already has a service dog named Jozie, a 5-year-old black lab who is helping show Chase the ropes.
“Mona has all the abilities and expertise in her family, already having a service dog in the home,” said Chief Klue. “She’s the perfect officer to put all the pieces together to train a dog for the hospital.”
Bringing Chase to work at the hospital was made possible by a generous gift by philanthropists Bill and Lesley Waldman.
“When we learned of the unique opportunity to provide a service and comfort dog to Akron Children’s, we were thrilled, said Bill. “We are dog lovers and know how much joy they can bring but also how they can help protect in possible dangerous situations.”
The couple decided on the name Chase without realizing the significance it would have with many of the hospital’s young patients.
“Little did we know that Chase is the police dog’s name on the very popular children’s cartoon show, Paw Patrol,” Bill said. “What a perfect way to introduce a sick child to a favorite cartoon character, for real. And then, if there was a threatening situation at the hospital, she could actually…chase!”
Officer Caley has been busy socializing Chase and getting her started with obedience and scent training for gun powder, with the assistance of Ken McCort, an animal behavior consultant and trainer, and Whitney Romine, coordinator of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Doggie Brigade. She’s also shadowed the Summit County Sheriff’s K9 scent detection dog handler teams, which do a lot of work at the Akron-Canton Airport and throughout Summit County.
“We are working on building foundational skills, such as sit, down, stay and come. This will help Officer Caley and Chase communicate when they’re working or visiting patients,” said Romine. “Then we will work with Ken to develop scent detection skills, such as nosework and alerting, so Chase can sniff out smells and tell her partner where they are.”
The Waldmans, like many hospital staff and patients, can’t wait to meet Chase and see her in action.
“We are extremely happy to be a part of this wonderful opportunity and look forward to meeting Chase after her training,” said Bill. “In fact, Lesley has a blanket that was made to welcome Chase to Akron Children’s Hospital.”