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Arapahoe sheriff swears in new therapy dog for CCSD

Riley squirmed a bit as he raised his right paw to formally take the oath as an official member of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

In fact, the black Labrador retriever puppy squirmed and squealed more than just a bit as he took in the sunshine on a stretch of artificial grass in front of the Sheriff’s office in Centennial on Sept. 12. It was clear that Riley wanted to run, jump, and explore his surroundings, but Arapahoe Sheriff Tyler Brown and his staff were on hand to keep the dog focused on the important ceremony at hand.

That ceremony was to formally swear in Riley as the Cherry Creek School District’s first official therapy dog, a role that will see the animal traveling to schools across the district’s 108 square miles to offer mental health support to students and staff. Riley will accompany Arapahoe Sheriff deputies to schools across the district to work directly with school populations and offer the kind of support, joy, and inspiration that only a dog can offer.

Riley and Brown joined a crowd of officials from the sheriff’s office and from the district to celebrate the occasion. CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith was on hand to speak to the value of the initiative for students and staff alike. He pointed to how Riley’s presence in schools will directly support the district’s core values: Growth Mindset, Equity, Whole Wellbeing, Engagement, and Relationships.

SRO Puppy“It was an easy decision to bring Riley into our schools. This will help our kids feel supported,” Smith said, pointing to a similar program in Littleton Public Schools through the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office that’s yielded positive results. “It’s incredible to see how quickly students react and interact with these dogs. They offer a calming spirit to the classroom, and this is another tool in our toolbox in addressing the mental health needs of our students.”

Before formally swearing in Riley as a therapy dog, Sherriff Brown spoke to the value of the canine program for kids and adults alike.

“The world can be a difficult place, and these animals bring joy even to deputies’ faces,” Brown said, adding that Deputy Adam Nardi, a school resource officer who’s worked in CCSD schools in the past, will be the dog’s official handler. “It’s important that students have access to law enforcement representatives who are trusted adults and responsible, caring individuals. Riley and Adam will be in schools five days a week, and it’s a great opportunity for the entire community.”

The program is another example of the strong partnership between CCSD and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, one that supports safety, security, and the district’s core values. Indeed, Riley’s presence in schools across the district will help build relationships and engagement; it will support the whole wellbeing of students; and the approach is an example of a growth mindset when it comes to looking for new ways to strengthen mental and emotional health.

“It’s a great addition for the whole wellbeing of our students,” said CCSD Board of Education President Kelly Bates, who joined fellow board members Anne Egan and Angela Garland at the ceremony. “This animal is calming; he’s a great resource for our students in need.”
Student holds Riley, the district's new therapy puppy.
Smith and Brown both pointed to the possible expansion of the program in CCSD in the future.

“We talked about Riley and this program with the understanding that he wouldn’t be the last therapy animal who will play a role in our schools,” Smith said. “We’re going to gradually get Riley into the schools, and we’ll look for possible additions to the program from there.”

Riley wasn’t wasting any time in getting to know the CCSD community. Immediately after the ceremony, he headed out to Dry Creek Elementary to meet kids, teachers, and staff, a first stop on what will be a busy schedule for the newly minted member of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.