Hamlet is a two-year-old yellow lab. He graduated from Susquehanna Service Dogs and just landed his first job at the Lancaster County Courthouse.
“His role is he is going to help in the courtroom to relieve anxiety for the participants that are in the court process,” said Amanda Nicholson, one of Hamlet’s trainers. “He’s also going to partake in their individual sessions with the participants to relieve some anxiety and just be a friendly face when they come in,” she said.
There is more to Hamlet than good looks. He has been trained to do several tricks that relieve anxiety.
“Research shows that just the interaction and the petting of a dog actually raises the oxytocin in the brain. And a high level of oxytocin will lower anxiety levels,” said Teri Miller-Landon, Division Director of Adult Probation and Parole.
Hamlet will work with people in the treatment courts.
“Participants of our veterans and mental health courts as well as individuals on probation and parole, especially those with disabilities,” Miller-Landon said.
The hope is that Hamlet will entice people to show up for court by calming them down.
“If they know they’re going to see Hamlet in court every week we’re hoping that they’re more likely to have lower stress about coming into the courtroom and seeing this as a positive part of their rehab and not just something they’re required to do,” said Miller-Landon.
Miller-Landon said Hamlet will help the Adult Probation and Parole office achieve the goal of protecting the public.
“When offenders can look at us as a support and not just as a person or entity that puts them in jail, they’re more likely to come to us when they have issues, concerns, and we can help connect them to what they need to be connected to,” Miller-Landon said. “Be that treatment, mental health treatment, drug and alcohol treatment, or specific treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” she said.
If you see Hamlet around the Courthouse you can pet him, just ask his handler first.
Susquehanna Service Dogs is currently looking for a few dozen people to be puppy raisers.
When they turn 8 weeks, puppies will need a Midstater to take care of them and help train them for 16 months. For more information call Susquehanna Service Dogs at (717) 599-5920.