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The newest hospital security measure at the Mount Carmel hospitals comes in a familiar form, but with therapeutic skills, as well.
Dogs have long been used in hospitals for pet therapy, and a 75-pound, 16-month old German Shepherd shows how it's done as he nuzzled a woman in a hospital gown.
"Bear likes to say hi to people, help them get better," said his handler Dan Jones.
Jones is not only Bear's handler, but also his partner.
He’s Major Dan Jones, and as the identification tag shows, the German Shepherd is Major Bear, too. Together they patrol the halls, but Bear has another job, too...hospital security.
"His primary function is explosive ordinance detection," said Jones.
Bear moved his head constantly, as if scanning for potential trouble. He only seemed to stop when he stared intently into Jones' face, as if waiting for a command.
Bear received dual training in both explosive detection and pet therapy.
Mount Carmel is the first hospital system in Ohio to acquire a dual-trained dog.
Jones said that Bear sits down whenever his sensitive nose locates a compound found in gun powder.
To demonstrate, Jones had concealed a packet of potassium chloride, a compound found in gunpowder, in a pouch, and placed it near a chair. He gave a whispered command, and Bear scoured the room, his nose tracking the scent. When the dog found the pouch, he sat down.
"OK, good job! What did you find?" said Jones, and tossed the dog his treat, a red ball.
After a few seconds, Jones scooped up the ball and pocketed it, for the next time.
Jones and Bear trained together at a facility Michigan -- one of just three sites nationwide that offer dual training for hospital dogs. (The other two are in Colorado and Texas.)
"The dog is a preventive measure. It's not in response to any sort of incident," said Mike Angeline, the Safety and Security Director for Mount Carmel.
Both he and Jones said the dog augments other safety measures at the hospitals.
"The way society is nowadays, it's an enhanced security measure just not for our system, but for the community as well," Jones said.
For example, squads regularly bring in victims of both domestic and gang violence to the emergency department.
But the anger that led to the violence does not always stay on the street. In the past, Angeline said, security officers have been called in groups to settle disputes.
"Just the mere presence of a dog will help to de-escalate a high environment," he said.
Jones added that Bear also calms staff members after difficult moments, and brings welcome smiles.
But most of the time, Jones and Bear quietly patrol the halls.
Jones patiently answered the same questions, while Bear made new friends.
A woman spotted them coming and called, "Can I pet your doggy?"
"You sure can," Jones replied.
Bear calmly stood while she stroked his head. But his eyes kept shifting, always alert for potential trouble.
"He was trained on what's called a light switch response," Jones explained. "So he is able to go from an aggression management type of scenario to hopping in bed with a pet therapy scenario, just on command. So it really is amazing."
Jones smiled down at his partner.
"I'm blessed to be a part of this," he said.
The dog was a gift from the Mount Carmel Hospital Foundation. Bear and his training cost around $12,000.
Angeline said if Bear works out as well as they expect, he would like to see the hospital system add a second dog next summer.
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