GREEN RIVER — Dogs are a woman’s best friend, and that’s definitely true for Green River Police Department (GRPD) Therapy K9 Buddy and his handler Juvenile Detective Martha Holzgrafe.
During January and February 2021, the GRPD started its Therapy K9 Program. Detective Holzgrafe began working with Duty Dogs, a dog breeding and training business located in Cody, who were in the process of training Buddy.
“At that time, Buddy was around 2 months old and already started his basic obedience. Duty Dogs and I communicated, and a list of commands for Buddy was generated,” Holzgrafe said.
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Buddy’s training needed to prepare him to pass his American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizenship evaluation, his AKC Urban Canine Good Citizenship evaluation, his therapy dog certification test, and his law enforcement K9 certification.
Positive reinforcement has always been the method used to train Buddy, and even now that he is a certified therapy dog, his training is a continual process.
“Every day is training for Buddy. To keep Buddy working his very best, we must train every day, ”Holzgrafe said.
An Unbreakable Bond
Holzgrafe and Buddy met for the first time in March 2021. Detective Hozlgrafe traveled to Cody during his training to learn his verbal and non-verbal commands, and to get acquainted with Buddy.
“When I first walked into the trainer’s residence, Buddy had just received a bath. I immediately knelt down and introduced myself. Buddy acknowledge my presence and quickly laid down at my feet,” Holzgrafe recalled. “From there, our bond continued to grow.”
Detective Holzgrafe hand fed Buddy from when he was about 7 months to 9 months old. This allowed him to gain a sense of trust with her.
“Feeding Buddy by hand gave Buddy the sense of trust that he needed,” she said.
In November 2021, Buddy and Detective Holzgrafe traveled to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio, to attend the Law Enforcement K9 Therapy School.
“After Buddy came to the Green River Police Department, it became my responsibility to maintain and fine tune the skills he had already learned,” Holzgrafe said.
During his time at the school, Holzgrafe said Buddy’s confidence and skills grew, and he successfully completed the school and passed all of his needed evaluations. In addition to growing his skills from him, however, Holzgrafe said their bond also developed even further.
“Buddy’s training in Columbus, Ohio, increased our bond and trust in each other. Buddy was asked to perform in several different uncertain situations and during that time, Buddy learned that he could trust me. Buddy started to understand that I, as his handler, would never put him in a situation that he could not handle, ”she said.
Buddy is now 15 months old and our bond couldn’t be stronger. I leave, Buddy leaves with me.
~ Juvenile Detective Martha Holzgrafe
A Day at Work with Buddy
Buddy and Detective Holzgrafe’s day starts when Buddy says it does.
“Since having Buddy, I no longer need to set an alarm for work. Buddy lets me know when it is time to wake up, eat, and go to work,” Holzgrafe said.
When they get to work, Holzgrafe allows Buddy to play and mingle with members of the department, as it gives him the chance to play and bond with all members of the GRPD. As their day progresses, Buddy goes along with Holzgrafe to help her with her daily duties.
“Before Buddy came along, I would visit our schools and kids would be very excited to see me. However, that has since changed,” Holzgrafe said. “When I walk into the schools, with Buddy, Detective Holzgrafe no longer exists and Buddy is the only thing that matters.”
Buddy has spent many of his work days assisting in Green River’s schools and several child interviews. When he visits the schools, Holzgrafe said the kids love to play, throw the ball, and pet him.
“Buddy gets just as excited to see them as the kids get to see him,” she said.
Holzgrafe said watching Buddy and the kids interact and work together has become her favorite part of her job.
As Buddy’s handler, the best part of my job is watching kids use Buddy to calm themselves down and face their challenges.
~ Detective Holzgrafe
Though Buddy is fully trained and certified to work in the courtrooms with witnesses, Holzgrafe said he has not had this opportunity yet.
“I, myself, would like for Buddy to be a little bit older before he is introduced into the courtrooms,” she said.
When the work day comes to close, Buddy is the one to decide it’s time to head back home.
“At the end of our day, Buddy lets me know it is time to go home so he can have his dinner,” Holzgrafe said.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Whether they’re at work or at home, Detective Holzgrafe feels very fortunate to have a friend in Buddy. Due to the nature of the job of a law enforcement officer, Holzgrafe said she and the members of the GRPD often see a strain on their mental health. Buddy has offered a relief for not only her, but the entire department.
“At times, law enforcement officers see and hear things that others may not understand. Things that we hear and see can push our mental health to a level we never expected. Having Buddy around not only helps the members of our community, but it also helps the members of our police department,” she said.
As Buddy’s handler, Holzgrafe considers herself lucky to have Buddy’s companionship every day.
“I am pretty lucky to have a Buddy distraction on a daily basis. Giving my brain a mental-health break definitely helps when Buddy is around. He is a great listener and is very good at giving affection,” she said.
As much love as Buddy gives, he has gotten just as much in return. The community has fallen in love with him since he came to Green River.
“Buddy would like to thank the citizens of Green River and Sweetwater County for welcoming him with open arms and lots of love,” Holzgrafe said.
When they’re not on the job, Holzgrafe and Buddy still get their quality time by doing things Buddy enjoys. He loves the snow and the water, and just as he knows how to work hard, he knows how to play hard too.
“Buddy loves to be outside. He gets very excited when the snow is around and he believes he should be able to sleep outside, ”Holzgrafe said. “During our warmer months, Buddy and my family spend time camping. He loves to play in the water and will chase anything you throw for him. At the end of our day, I enjoy taking Buddy on walks. Walks are the perfect way to end our day.”