Therapy dog joins Warsaw city hall, offers emotional support

Taima sits between her owner, Staci Young, assistant to the mayor, and Whitney Olson, administrative assistant to the mayor in their office at Warsaw City Hall. Olson trained Taima, who is now a regular presence at city hall. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Warsaw is now one of three Indiana cities with a therapy dog that’s become a regular face in city hall.

The opportunity arose after Whitney Olson, who works in the mayor’s office as an administrative assistant and happens to train dogs in her off time, transferred ownership of her 7-year-old black lab to Staci Young, assistant to the mayor last year.

Taima has a business card that includes a QR code on the back that takes you to her Facebook page. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.

Olson notes that therapy dogs are different than traditional service dogs.

Service dogs provide different types of assistance to their owners and are trained not to be distracted so that they remain focused on their role.

The idea of having a therapy dog in city hall gained support after a city wellness committee embraced the plan.

Taima — pronounced tame-a — has become a welcoming presence in city hall for workers and visitors.

Her dog bed sits next to a desk in the middle of the common area in Mayor Jeff Grose’s office.

“We’ve had grown men in business suits sit on her bed and hang out for ten, 15 minutes petting her and reaping the benefits of having her here,” Olson said. “So she is a positive influence everywhere.”

Olson was asked if she thinks the role of a service dog in city hall is a big deal.

“The more she’s here and the more impact she herself is proving, the mayor is starting to find out it’s a big deal, our HR director is starting to find out it’s a big deal, our employees are starting to find out it’s a big deal,” Olson said.

Taima is specifically trained to detect if somebody is upset and has become a supportive presence.

Taima recently picked up on one person’s sullen demeanor while they were visiting the mayor’s office and was persistent in wanting to visit with that person.

“She went into Jeff’s conference room and laid her head across his lap, and then while he was sitting there having the meeting, he was able to pet her and eventually, calm down,” Olson said. “When she felt like he was calmed down, she laid down next to his feet, which is what she is supposed to do.”

Mayor Jeff Grose said he’s enjoyed the dog’s company and applauds the efforts by Olson.

“This is something she takes seriously and has been a part of for years so why not encourage it?” Grose said during a recent episode of New Now Warsaw’s In the Know show.

“We’re taking this seriously and this is something we want to offer to our employees in the community,” he said

Taima now has a Facebook page and can be scheduled for workers to have a sit down with the dog if they feel it would help.

City Hall has established a Google form for city employees to set aside time to be with Taima. The appointments are kept private in case somebody is having a crisis.

Noblesville and Zionsville have both adopted – so to speak – therapy dog policies for their city halls, Olson said.