New "Top Dog" at Prince William Co. Department of Social Services

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey introduces us to Meyer the new "top dog" at the Prince William County Department of Social Services. (Published Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014)

    The newest staffer at the Prince William County Department of Social Services is getting a lot of attention.

    Meyer has irresistible deep brown eyes, four legs and a frequently wagging tail. After two years of special training this "facility" dog is ready to start helping children who've suffered abuse and neglect open up about their experience.

    "I will use Meyer in the forensic interviews of children that have experienced abuse and neglect," said Sarah Weatherford, his handler at the Manassas office. "Meyer will help us build rapport with children and minimize the trauma they've experienced."

    As he made his debut, Meyer showed off some of his skills with employees' children. An unusual but important command for his work is "visit." When he hears that, Meyer gently lays his head in a child's lap, a calming presence in the midst of their turmoil. He responds to another command called "lap" by jumping up and putting his two paws in a child's lap so they can easily pet him .

    NY-based Canine Companions for Independence provided Meyer and paid for his two years of training. The non-profit has supplied 59 facility dogs to professionals who deal with criminal justice issues in 23 states.

    The office director says there is a fringe benefit to adding Meyer to her staff. He also helps alleviate stress for the social workers.

    "They are the ones that have to go out and interview parents and children in bad situations and I think the dog offers comfort from them when they come back from a bad environment," said Janine Sewell, Prince William County Department of Social Services director.

    Sewell said the Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorneys office already had a dog working with victims there.