GALLIA COUNTY, OH (WOWK) – The Gallia County Sheriff’s Office is welcoming a new member to the department who will have a special role in helping the members of her community.

Sheriff Matt Champlin says Zaya, a Bernedoodle, will serve the community as the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office’s new therapy dog. Champlin says Zaya is taking on the assignment to provide love and affection to people in need during times of crisis and tragedy.

According to the sheriff’s office, having Zaya serve as a therapy dog will offer additional support in a wide variety of circumstances, including but not limited to those experiencing a mental health crisis, victims of crime who are coping with the criminal justice process, those who were involved in a traumatic event, including children.

Champlin says bringing Zaya onto the department is a way for the GCSO better serve the community as they have seen a recent need to help citizens through mental health and coping strategies.

“This office has continued to evolve to not only police our community, but to serve our community and care for the citizens under our protection. Over the last several years, the need to provide services related to mental health and coping with tragedy has continued to rise.,” Champlin said. “Through our role in the community, we are often the first to tend to that need.”

The GCSO says the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office pioneered the therapy dog program for law enforcement across the Buckeye State and taught the GCSO to research and develop a plan to integrate a therapy dog program into their own office.

“We are excited to share Zaya with Gallia County and we are excited to see the good she can do throughout our community,” Champlin said.

Champlin says thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, Zaya comes to Gallia County free of cost to the sheriff’s office from the Bluegrass Bernedoodles Inspire Puppy Tales. She is receiving training throughout the first year of her assignment to help her grow into her role. Champlain says after training for a year, Zaya will officially receive her certification.

Zaya has been assigned to work with Buckeye Hills Career Center School Resource Deputy Jordan Shaffer, according to the sheriff’s office. She will also be available to any other schools in Gallia County and any organization or individual in need.