Sarpy County, Iowa, Mourns Loss of Facility Dog Manny

A black lab in a service vest laying downAfter seven-and-a-half years with Sarpy County, Manny the facility dog died on January 3, 2022, following some health-related issues. He was nine.

“He liked to be around people,” said Sarpy County Victim/Witness Chief of Staff Jean Brazda. “His favorite age range was kids. Whenever he would come to work with me, just about every day, when he would hear kids in the hallway of the courthouse or go to a meeting, he would get excited.”

Manny had a morning routine — Brazda would brush his hair, his teeth and get his vest on.

“He would walk out the door with myself and my kids,” she said. “He understood what his role was.”

His job was to interact with victims or witnesses in criminal cases, navigating the deposition process with them. Manny would often sit at the feet of those testifying in court, particularly children, to offer comfort and support in an often uncomfortable situation.

“He would just be,” Brazda said. “That was his role.”

Manny came to Sarpy County in 2014, following an application process with Canine Companions — who specialize in service dogs — that spanned two years.

The Labrador retriever-golden retriever mix spent 16 months in obedience and socialization training as a puppy. He, then, completed six months of intensive training at Canine Companions before Brazda trained with him. Worth about $48,000, he came knowing 38 different commands.

Manny was the first and (so far) only courthouse facility dog in the state. He was placed with Brazda at no charge.

“Manny’s ability to sense tension and sadness was his biggest strength,” said Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov, a major proponent of the facility dog program. “He proved his worth day after day, whether he was sitting with a child who was about to testify in court, visiting the youth at our juvenile facility or simply walking through the halls of the courthouse adding a smile to people’s faces.”

At work, Manny had his own calendar for meetings and appointments, and special bed to lay in during his free time.

“His second or third week here with me, we went right into a murder trial where he was able to take the stand with one of our young witnesses,” Brazda said. “We jumped right into work.”

From May 2014 to Dec 2021, Manny had contact with 575 crime victims. This does not account for the number of county employees, general public, presentations or juveniles at the Juvenile Justice Center he had contact with regularly.

He held his “lap” command for more than an hour, applying pressure with his front legs to a young girl’s lap with his back feet on the ground, as she talked about horrific sexual abuse she endured by a family member. By the end, Manny’s back was wet from her tears. She had hugged him the whole time.

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