SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — The 28th Judicial District Community Corrections has a new employee who has made himself a favorite among his coworkers and clients.

Crenshaw is the new agency service dog who arrived in Salina this summer.

One of Crenshaw’s jobs is being off the leash in the courtroom, visiting clients.

“The clients come into the courtroom, and Crenshaw focuses on the clients,” handler Brian Vessar said. “He goes to the gallery. If you sit and watch him, he’ll go to every single person. Some people he sticks with a little longer because they’re a little bit more open to him, but some clients will just kind of touch his head and move on. But he checks in with every one of them, and then he comes back up and lays down next to me. But if we get a client that is becoming upset in the courtroom, you can definitely tell his demeanor change. And he will watch and focus on that client. And when it’s available, when that client is not talking to the judge anymore, and that client goes and sits down, Crenshaw will just walk over to them and just sit there and lean up against them. They’ll pet him scratch his ears, and things like that. He’s very, very attuned to the attitudes and the demeanor of people in the courtroom.”

In community corrections, they work with high-risk clients who have experienced trauma.

“The majority of our clients have experienced trauma, either childhood trauma or ongoing issues,” Director of the 28th Judicial District Community Corrections Michelle Callam said. “The majority of our clients are drug abusers, so there’s a lot of things that happen in that addictive environment or in that sort of community where we have bad things happen. But not knowing the trauma that somebody’s been through, it’s nice to have a service animal that kind of connects with them. And if they aren’t comfortable really sharing with you everything that’s happened in your life, we feel like they’re getting something from us by having that animal here and having Crenshaw here to connect with them.”

Crenshaw helps with his coworkers just as much as the clients.

“He’s in there laying down. There’s a staff member laying down on the floor with him because that staff member has just had a stressful appointment with a client and is frustrated with a client or frustrated with, ‘What can I do to help this person?'” Vessar said.

The overarching goal is to make sure people are successful, so they don’t come back to their facility.

“Our mission is to remove barriers to try to help people be successful and be a successful part of the community,” Callam said. “So I think that when you have something that’s innovative like this, that’s kind of outside the box, if we can help one or two people, it’s worth it.”

Staff members have seen Crenshaw open clients up.

“We’ve had clients that are difficult for us to get in and gain compliance with,” Vessar said. “And since we’ve got Crenshaw, we’ve had clients that typically are not very good at reporting to us and can continue to have violations for that. Now, they’re coming in more regular, they’re coming in, a lot of it’s because of Crenshaw. There’s one client that I know that I can speak of. He’s been on for quite some time, several times. And every time he comes in, he’s angry. Well, when he comes in now, he’s not. He comes in to see Crenshaw, and I think he’s been able to open up with his officer a little bit more because he’s gained that connection to our office through Crenshaw.”

Callam says Crenshaw deescalates situations because they don’t have anger toward him.

“You might be mad at your probation officer, but Crenshaw hasn’t done anything to you,” Callam said. “So you’re happy to see Crenshaw, so I think it makes a big difference in just the day-to-day interaction with our clientele.” 

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