Name: John Gray
Years: 3. 4
Native city: Littleton, Colo.
Occupation: Deputy Sheriff of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office
Execution time: 15 years
Reason for execution: I run for work, my health, and to raise awareness about mental health and the use of police therapy dogs that work with school resource officers.
I started running regularly in 2009 for my career as a law enforcement officer. When I started, I was running five days a week at the police academy. Throughout my career, journey through life, getting married and having children, I try to exercise at least four times a week to maintain my fitness.
Now Rex, my K9 partner and a one and a half year old black labrador retriever, who works as a certified therapy dog and is also certified in black powder scent detection (which includes firearms, ammunition and pipe bombs), definitely helps keep me constantly on the go!
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I am a school resource officer with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, and Rex is my K9 school resource buddy. Rex works wonderfully as a support for everybody students and has a positive impact not only on their morale, but also on their relationship with me as a school resource officer. Rex also works hard to keep our students smiling, while he keeps our schools safe by sniffing for firearms.
Police therapy dogs are required to have completed American Kennel Club (AKC) training up to and beyond the Canine Good Citizen program, and be certified as therapy dogs through an AKC-approved organization. Police therapy dogs work with school resource officers and are specifically trained in obedience that allows officers to direct how the dogs interact with people in different circumstances.
For example, if we have students who have a diagnosis involving a sensory overstimulation problem, we can have the dog lie down and stay in position, allowing the student to approach the dog and interact at their own comfortable pace. When we are upset, the hormones in our body change and dogs can smell the change in hormones. Experienced therapy dogs work with people who are upset and in crisis so often that they learn to identify hormonal changes and are able to interact with people on a more proactive level.
We also work with therapy dogs and socialize them in such a way that we create confident dogs that are not afraid of any noise or situation that may arise. Mental health is a growing concern in communities across America and this is one way the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers Program is trying to make a difference in the minds of our youth and provide support to those who need it most.
This year, The Blue Force K9 is backa non-profit organization, along with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, organized the first RexRun 5K for PAWSitivity on August 6, 2022, to raise awareness and fund law enforcement therapy dogs. The RexRun was also inspired by Rex, with the goal of raising money to have more Sheriff’s Office therapy dogs in our schools, as well as provide safety gear for all of our K9s.
Running in the RexRun event was exciting and so much fun to run for a cause! We were joined by Teresa Ann, 9, who started the race by running the first mile with me in honor of Riggs, a fallen K9 cop, who worked with the Greenwood Village Police Department.
This race was incredibly important not only to me, but to our community as it supports the growth of the Sheriff’s Office Therapy Dog Program, which is a relatively new concept for law enforcement.
Rex and I do a lot of walking and a little running in our free time, as well as a lot of training at work to keep us active. Rex always loves the opportunity to show him obedience and play a little.
Rex and I plan to keep running to raise awareness of the incredible impact a therapy dog can have when paired with a school resource officer.
Running and just exercising in general is a great way to get a natural dopamine release and benefit your mood and well-being. If you’re new to running, I encourage you to find a way to make running fun, impactful, or exciting. Run a race for a cause and consider joining us at RexRun 2023.
These three tips have made my career journey a success:
1. Find a purpose
I always try to find a purpose or passion for what I do, whether it’s running, participating in dog training, or even speaking in a cafeteria full of students. Passion and purpose give us abilities to achieve goals we never thought possible.
2. Create to plan
I always start any run or workout with a plan. Small goals can be a huge motivator because nothing feels better than exceeding your own expectations!
3. Focus on exploration
Running a race for a cause or traveling to a new area to explore is a great way to make fun part of your run. I use this same principle when training Rex, and always try to train in new areas to keep training exciting and fun for Rex.
John’s must-have kit
→ Salomon Men’s XA PRO 3D V8 GORE-TEX Trail Running Shoes: We work and race in difficult conditions. I wear Salomon boots and shoes and they have always supported me in all the harsh conditions we can work in.
→ 5.11 TacTec Trainer weight vest: If you’re going to take running to the next level like we do, running with equipment at work, it’s good to train with heavy equipment outside of work. These weighted vests provide a good challenge, but can also be comfortable when fitted correctly.
→ Skullcandy Hesh ANC Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones: I like some of the noise cancellation on these headphones, but I feel like I can get some situational awareness during a workout or a run. I usually don’t run with the music on full volume if I’m running near roads or trails, so I can be aware of what’s going on around me.
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Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer based in Pennsylvania.
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