UPDATE: Xena the Warrior Puppy Visits Gainesville RYDC DJJ Staff  at:  7/23/2014  
UPDATE – 'Xena the Warrior Puppy' Visits Gainesville RYDC

"Xena the Warrior Puppy" and Chrissy Kaczynski, founding member of Friends of DeKalb Animals rescue group.

"Xena the Warrior Puppy" was so popular among DJJ youth when she made a special visit to the Marietta RYDC this summer, she was invited to make a return engagement at the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center in Hall County in July.

Xena's canine fame has fetched her new stardom since her last visit to DJJ. Xena collared a new title as the 2014 American Humane Association's Emerging Hero Dog Award.

Performing for a packed house, Xena the Warrior Puppy 'Bow-WOW'ed' her adoring Gainesville audience. Her new north Georgia fans came to see her share her story that traumas and past problems can be overcome and a better life can be found.

But Xena's not happy just posing on her blanket for the cameras. It's the job of the top dog to help spread a message about persevering against low survival odds and how animal friendships can even improve the quality of life for people enduring serious illness.

Special thanks goes out to Linda Hickey for bringing Xena the Warrior Puppy to the Gainesville RYDC, Deputy Commissioner of Operations and Compliance Sarah Draper for making the arrangements, and the DJJ Communications Team for documenting the Marietta RYDC event.

Below are excerpts from the original Today Show story about the past sorrow and current success of Xena the Warrior Puppy.

Xena the Warrior Puppy, rescued from abuse, helps 8-year-old boy with autism


For most of Jonny Hickey’s eight years of life, solitude had suited him just fine. He adores his mom and dad, of course, and he loves his older brother. He also views some special-Ed teachers as rare, trusted allies. Still, none of those people could get many words out of him.

It’s not that Jonny can’t talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read with proficiency. But autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions result in painful awkwardness; unfamiliar situations can trigger terror, tantrums or both.

Seeking comfort and predictability, he’d embrace solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he’d spend hours playing with marbles in silence.

Then, about two months ago, everything changed. Jonny forged a connection so unlikely that people familiar with it describe it as a miracle. His new confidante brings out the best in him — his playfulness, his cute singing voice, his verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.

Jonny connected with a dog.

“He is non-stop chatter now!” Jonny’s mother, Linda Hickey told TODAY.com. “He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E.

“He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”

A lover and a fighter

Jonny’s transformation begins with the miracle that the dog survived to meet Jonny at all.

Mere months before she bounded into Jonny’s world, the pup was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia after she collapsed in someone’s yard. When staff members saw her, they recoiled in shock.

“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” said Chrissy Kaczynski, who works for Animal Services and is a founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals. “I brought her home with me and I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.”

But with fluids, nutritional supplements and an urgent vet visit, the puppy began to perk up. Veterinary and shelter staff guessed she was about 4 months old and must have been confined — and starved — in a cage before being dumped.

“She was completely dehydrated and her nose was all scabbed over ... like she had been trying to escape something,” Kaczynski said.

Her rapid recovery prompted Kaczynski to dub her “Xena the Warrior Puppy.” A Facebook page soon followed. One local who found Xena’s story irresistible was Linda Hickey, Jonny’s mom.

“Yes, I fell in love with a dog on the Internet!” said Linda, whose family lives in Johns Creek, Ga., with two other lovable dogs that are a bit too old or frail to play non-stop with a young boy.

When Friends of DeKalb Animals announced that Xena, believed to be a Staffordshire terrier mix, was strong enough to appear at a fund-raising event in November, Linda brought her family to meet the puppy in person.

“We were literally there for four minutes, and Xena ran right up to Jonny and my husband,” Linda said. “I already loved this dog, and after I met her, I really loved this dog.”

Not surprisingly, the family adopted Xena soon after.

On their first trial day together — Feb. 11 — Linda decided to bring Xena along in the minivan when she picked Jonny up from school. Jonny smiled widely, then melted in the onslaught of unconditional affection.

“From that very first day, that dog was sitting in his lap in the car seat, giving him all these kisses,” Linda said. “And that’s where she’s been ever since.”

The calming presence of dogs

Research regarding the effects of companion animals on kids with autism is limited but encouraging. One study published earlier this year revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than they were in the presence of toys.

And in a 2006 pilot investigation, children with autism spoke and interacted much more when they could pet dogs or rabbits, throw balls for dogs, ride llamas and engage with animals in other ways during occupational therapy sessions.

‘A pretty perfect team’

Since the adoption, Linda has been providing updates to Xena’s 19,000-plus fans on Facebook, an activity that’s been a balm to her.

To learn more about the work of Friends of DeKalb Animals, click here.





     Central Office Employee Appreciation Cookout DJJ Staff  at:  7/18/2014  


On July 18th, the DJJ Management Team hosted a Central Office Employee Appreciation Cookout to kickoff the Summer and to recognize the hard work of the headquarters staff in providing support to the cause of juvenile justice in Georgia. With hot dogs grilling and music playing, the Cookout was a small thank you for those who go above and beyond the call of duty each and every day.

A special thanks goes out to CFO Sonja Allen, Commissioner and ‘DJ-for-a-day’, Avery D. Niles, and Assistant Commissioner and ‘king-of-the-grill’, Mark Sexton, for providing the food and festivities for today's event. (The Coca-Cola can shown in Mr. Sexton’s hand identifies him as official “GrillMaster” of the cook-out.)





     Views from the SMRT Team P.O.S.T. Certification Ceremony DJJ Staff  at:  7/17/2014  

On July 16th, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles was proud to present formally and swear-in the DJJ Security Management and Response Team (SMRT) as P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) certified peace officers with arrest powers.

The POST training provides peace officers at DJJ with the training and certification mandated by Georgia. A peace officer generally refers to any employee of a state or other public law enforcement agency, whose duties include arrests, searches and seizures, execution of criminal and civil warrants, and is responsible for the prevention or detection of crime or for the enforcement of the penal laws.

In 2012, the DJJ Commissioner authorized the creation of two (2) 12-person SMRT Teams pronounced as “SMART" Teams to provide immediate and controlled response to emergent incidents occurring within the jurisdiction of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

The SMRT teams are formed to ensure the safety of offenders and staff as well as overall security while building stability and lending support to facilities facing crisis situations. SMRT Teams are designed to be available for immediate statewide response at the Regional Youth detention Centers (RYDC) and the Youth Development Campuses (YDC).

The SMRT Teams will also be available to assist in the event of a serious incident involving DJJ Juvenile Probation or Parole Offices. The SMRT Teams will be on-call and respond to any activity deemed necessary by the Commissioner, including emergency situations arising from natural and manmade disasters.


Congratulations once again to all of our newly sworn in SMRT Team Members!




     Views from the Office of Training Information Summit DJJ Staff  at:  7/10/2014  


Recently, the Department of Juvenile Justice Division of Training and Personnel Services, part of the Office of Training, held an informational Summit at the DJJ Academy located at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, Georgia. The purpose of the meeting was to offer an overview of the Office of Training as a whole and to provide details of current and upcoming programming in the department.

A quick look of the Office of Training shows that there are twenty-eight employees, including the director, and that:

  • Eighteen are responsible for the training of staff

  • Five manage and instruct courses when necessary

  • Five are administrative staff

The Office of Training enlists the assistance of adjunct instructors from all DJJ Divisions. Currently, there are forty-seven adjunct instructors active throughout the agency.

Since January, the Office of Training has been busy providing course training for a wide variety of Department of Juvenile Justice needs. Among the many courses and the numbers graduating from the courses include:

  • Basic Juvenile Correctional Officer Training -- 157 Trained

  • Basic Juvenile Probation Officer Training -- 46 Trained

  • In-Service --Physical Intervention Training -- 1,050 Trained

  • Sergeants Academy -- 78 Trained

  • Management Basics -- 53 Trained

  • Field Training Officer -- 48 Trained

  • AHA CPR/First Aid -- 1,175 Trained

  • Community Pre-Service -- 18 Trained

  • Performance Planning and Employee Discipline -- 111 Trained

  • Behavior Management Unit Certification -- 56 Trained

 Moving forward, the Office of Training is preparing several new courses/programs that will stat this calendar year:

  • Basic Juvenile Probation Officer Training

  • Leadership Development Institute

  • Special Incident Report Writing Course

  • Webinar Courses

  • Office of Training Course Catalog

With the new vetting procedures now in place, the number of employees graduating from training courses is growing substantially. Whereas in the past, the dropout rate was very high, with the latest training course, nearly 98% of those attended and graduated.

Special thanks goes out to DJJ Deputy Commissioner Michael McNeely and Director of Training Theodore Carter Jr. for their hard work in improving testing and course standards for the Department of Juvenile Justice. In honor of Director Carter's work, DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles presented him with a prestigious DJJ Commissioner's Coin during the Summit.





     Download the Ready GA Emergency Mobile App for Your DJJ Phones Today DJJ Staff  at:  7/1/2014  

Download the Ready GA Emergency Mobile App for Your DJJ Phones Today

DJJ Team: The first tropical depression of the Atlantic Hurricane Season is expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Arthur later today. GEMA says “Arthur” will not make a direct hit on Georgia, but coastal counties could still experience sustained winds of 25-35 mph and locally heavy rainfall. If it hugs the coast more tightly than initially predicted, Georgia could receive more direct impacts from wind and rain. Commissioner Avery D. Niles suggests the DJJ Team can start monitoring this storm using the Ready Georgia Emergency Mobile APP!

Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security recently introduced an upgrade of the state’s emergency mobile app, Ready Georgia. Ready Georgia was designed to help Georgians stay safe and informed during emergencies like the ones DJJ experienced this winter. DJJ Commissioner Niles recommends that all DJJ employees download this new app on compatible DJJ phones or on their personal phones to safeguard their family’s safety.

The award-winning Ready Georgia mobile app, created by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Department of Public Health, is an interactive tool that makes it easier than ever to stay ready for emergencies. The app features geo-targeted severe weather and emergency alerts that will notify your phone before disasters strike. It also includes a customizable emergency plan and supplies checklist, information on how to deal with specific threats, and detailed maps covering everything from live-traffic to the location of open emergency shelters.

The Ready Georgia app is available for iPhone and Android platforms. Download it today and Work safer -- Travel safer. Keep an eye on the weather and the road this holiday weekend.



ANDROID PHONE APP DOWNLOAD: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.ga.readyga





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