Marshall Prosecutor’s Office Dog Adjusting to Staff Change
MOUNDSVILLE — Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office therapy dog Liberty has been a friendly face to victims and students across the county, but with her handler departing the office she will have another face to learn.
Investigator Zachary Allman left the prosecutor’s office last month, accepting a new position as a county magistrate. Beyond his work as investigator, Allman also served as Liberty’s primary handler. Liberty was present at Allman’s swearing-in ceremony, playing with his two children, Brody and Ruxin, who talked with Prosecutor Rhonda Wade about who would be taking Liberty home that night.
Allman’s role as investigator, and primary handler, was taken over by former West Virginia State Police trooper Bryan Gaus. Wade said that Allman will continue to serve as a caretaker for Liberty when she and Gaus are unavailable. In the meantime, Gaus will be taking a week-long course on becoming a handler, once a date and time are established.
“He’ll have to go through the same training that Zach and I went through,” Wade said. “It’ll be a week-long thing, with the specific training for what a handler will be. … It’s pretty intense. The dog knows what it’s doing. You have to learn the ins and outs of the commands to make them act a certain way, and you have to learn how to care for them.”
Wade said that one of Gaus’ first duties will be grooming Liberty — not only brushing her fur, but brushing her teeth and taking a Dremel tool to her nails.
“She’s in the public, she’s got to be clean,” Wade said of the dog, who often represents her office at visits and events.
Allman said he was excited for the next phase of his career, but he noted his children were hesitant about the change. He said he will still make sure they get to see Liberty whenever possible.
“I’ll still be able to come and get her and take her home. My kids love her. I’ll still be able to play with her. But as far as being her primary handler goes, I’ll have to give that title up,” Allman said previously.
Wade and Allman acquired Liberty in June of last year to help provide comfort to victims of traumatic crimes, a role in which Wade said Liberty has excelled. In addition to her role in the courtroom, Wade said Liberty has been a visible presence around the county, including at schools where she provides comfort to students.
“It’s been just wonderful,” Wade said. “We’ve had kids who had been removed from their families. They ask us, ‘Where’s Liberty?’ We have an older girl who comes in for court, and the first thing she says is, ‘Where’s Liberty?’ That’s Liberty’s goal. When they have to come to court, they know she’s here — from the first interviews at Harmony House, clear up until trial.”
“She’s been over to Central Elementary for the special needs classes over there. They get to see her, sort of as a treat. … The schools will call on an individual basis,” Wade added. “She’s been to Glen Dale and Washington Lands to meet everybody. She was at John Marshall, where Zach presented her. … It just makes everybody more at ease.”
Wade said even among courthouse staff, Liberty’s presence has been a positive influence — and she has been well behaved for her entire career at the courthouse.
“They’re happier, they’re friendlier, our staff, and she’s great to have around. She’s very low-key. She’s barked maybe two times because something has startled her.”
Liberty was obtained through Duo Dogs Inc., which trains assistance dogs for a variety of needs. Wade said Liberty represents approximately $28,000 worth of training and resources, but she was provided to the office at no cost to the county. Duo Dogs is a nonprofit that provides assistance dogs to facilities such as courthouses and juvenile centers, as well as individuals in need of specialized assistance, at no charge.