It is with deep sadness that we share with our community the loss of retired K-9 “Primus” who was the pioneer of our Child Comfort Dog Program now known nationally as “Paws and Stripes!!” Primus passed away peacefully yesterday morning at the age of 13 surrounded by his family at his retirement home in Big Timber, Montana.
K-9 Primus started his career with our agency in 2013 when his handler, then Corporal Jesse Holton, came up with the idea to try using Primus to assist in helping interview children who had been the reported victim’s of crime. When children who are victim’s of crime are interviewed by Law Enforcement, Doctors, and even Crime Scene, it is a very scary experience as all too often they are alone and understandably quite afraid!! With that in mind, the concept was to use Primus to try and calm them down, comfort them, and build a rapport with them so they could feel comfortable in talking with the team members who were trying to help. The initiative had never been tested anywhere else in the country and that was all we needed to take action to try and help children who had been victimized!!
Jesse and K-9 Primus went to work and boy did they make a difference, as prior to using Primus to develop the initiative, only 32% of the children who were reported to be victim’s of crime were disclosing to law enforcement what had actually occurred. Once Primus was trained and went to work with Jesse, the percentage of disclosure jumped to 82% in just one year and became the catalyst for what we now call our “Paws and Stripes Child Comfort Dog Program”!! This one of a kind program uses inmates under the watchful eye of our staff to train rescue dogs from our Animal Care Center to become child comfort dogs!! Once fully trained, they are provided to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, at no cost, so they can impact and help protect thousands of children in that agencies community!! The program is a trifecta of winning, as it not only helps save the lives of children, but it also finds forever homes for homeless dogs in our Animal Care Center, and teaches inmates in our jail a trade they can then use to gain employment so they can return to being a productive member of our community!!
Since Primus was first sworn in as the pioneer of this amazing program, over 290 dogs and their handlers from all over the country have been trained by our team at Paws and Stripes to be child comfort dogs!! What Primus started in 2013 has now impacted the lives of literally thousands and thousands of children across the country and his payment for this amazing effort…just being loved on by all of the children he impacted, his co-workers, and of course his family!! What this dog did without even knowing he was doing, saved countless lives and help heal those he encountered!!