PRINCETON – Service dogs are “superheroes,” says Mercer County Magistrate Sandra
J. Dorsey, who recently took her own personal service dog to Mercer Elementary School to educate children on the
realities of having a service dog, and what to do in their presence.
Dorsey's service dog is a mastiff named Officer Kodiak.
people see him, it helps educate the public to ignore a service dog,” Dorsey
told The West Virginia Record. “Although Kodiak is a large dog, I constantly have to remind
people in public not to try to touch him, that he is working.”
children know to ask permission before petting the service dogs, but some
others, and many adults, usually try to touch Kodiak despite the service dog
vest and signs that say, “not to touch, talk or distract him.”
dogs serve many different purposes. Magistrate Dorsey’s visit to Mercer Elementary
School taught kids the difference between a service dog, therapy dog and
emotional support dog.
“They learned dogs can contribute to
learning environments, as the dogs help enable children develop confidence to
read out loud,” Dorsey said. “Certain dogs can help traumatized individuals
discuss scary events. Working service dogs can help individuals who suffer from
seizures, diabetes, PTSD, autism, balance, hearing, and other health issues.”
The Mercer County Magistrate has had
her service dog for several years to help her with walking and balance due to
nerve damage in her feet.
“I am currently wearing a boot
because I did not have Kodiak next to me and my nerves caused my toes to
contract under my foot,” Dorsey said.
Prior to having Kodiak, Magistrate
Dorsey had the nerves in her foot removed. As a result, the nerves in her foot
would not transmit to her brain when she was losing her balance so she would
fall when she stepped on uneven surfaces or if she was squatting down to pick
But Officer Kodiak came to her
rescue, and he does well with helping others too.
“The good points in having a service
dog as a magistrate, is that I have more stability moving from the outside
areas into the inside,” Dorsey said. “While working in Bluefield, he would go
out to the assistant’s offices when people would get loud with them, simply lie
down, with his head on the ground, [and] it would settle people down.”
Kodiak also shows great concern when
babies cry and would peek around the corner to ensure they were okay before
On a regular workday, Kodiak lies
under the desk when in her office or under the bench when in court.
“His job is to stay close to me and
I have had him in the court since he was seven weeks old,” Magistrate Dorsey
said. “A well-trained service dog will not be noticed, unless they are
The goal of the school visit was to
help students understand the differences in working dog categories, dog
etiquette and how to approach any dog.
“They learned service dogs can be as
small as a toy poodle or as large as a mastiff, depending on the work required,”
she said. “Furthermore, they learned not all disabilities are visible to the
eye. But, the service animal allows its handler to live a full productive life.”