A Doggone Good Boy Helps Locals Heal

What is more comforting than the affection of a four-legged friend? There probably isn’t much. That’s why the Ohio Valley Wellness Coalition (OVWC) came up with the idea to foster a comfort pup for the Ohio County Sherriff’s Department. 

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with current Coalition president Melissa Knollinger and former president Libby Slater to learn all about the Coalition and its latest project sponsoring a community comfort dog named Remington (“Remi”). 

If you’re not familiar with the OVWC, no worries. Formerly a member of the OVMC Auxiliary, the OVWC is now a local non-profit focused on promoting health and wellness in the Ohio Valley through a broad range of activities and initiatives. From hosting events like a Wellness 5k Walk to preparing holiday cheer packages for isolated seniors, the OVWC is committed to expanding the dialogue around wellness in our community and to supporting healing. 

Sgt. Nicole Seifert along with baby Remington.

Under new leadership and with the support of an incredibly dedicated board, the OVWC launched its latest and most adorable initiative in 2020. The latest project was to sponsor a comfort dog to work with the Ohio County Sherriff’s Department. According to Libby, the idea was really born out of a desire to find new ways to connect in the community. Libby and Melissa saw a similar initiative in Pittsburgh and decided, why not in Wheeling? They did their research and connected with Sheriff Tom Howard, who was fully on board with and supportive of the idea.

To launch the sponsorship, the Coalition knew they first needed an officer who could be 110 percent dedicated to Remi’s training. When they addressed this with Sheriff Tom Howard, he had just the partner for Remi, Sgt. Nicole Seifert. Nicole is a dedicated officer with the Sheriff’s department who enthusiastically took on the responsibility of loving and caring for Remi not only through his training but for his life.  

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  • Remi alongside Nicole and Judge David Sims as he was sworn in

As Remi’s caretaker, Nicole attended a training program with him at Misty Pines in Sewickley, PA where he learned all about what it took to become a comfort dog. Remi also attended puppy school at Wheeling’s own Play N Stay. Remi lives and reports to work with Nicole and the two of them have built a bond to last a lifetime. 

As a community comfort dog, Remi’s job is to bring peace and comfort to those in crisis situations. He has visited local schools and has been present in first response scenarios to help de-escalate the stress of the situation for children and adults alike. Following his training, Remi was sworn in as the newest deputy of the Ohio County Sherriff’s Department on Wednesday, October 27 at 1 p.m. Administering the oath was Judge David Sims who had Remi raise his right paw. Attendees at the ceremony then celebrated with treats and a special cake for Remi provided by Zeb’s Barky Bites

  • Special treats just for the occasion were prepared by Zeb's Barky Bites.

As the newest sheriff in town, Remi will continue his work to bring joy, comfort, and peace in the community. According to Libby, “there is just no way to measure how much good Remi has already been able to bring.” 

For more information on the Ohio Valley Wellness Coalition, or to inquire about scheduling Remi for a comfort visit, please reach out to Melissa Knollinger. You can also follow what Remi is up to on OVWC’s Facebook page

• Sarah Clark works full-time at an international law firm. A Wheeling resident, she earned her bachelor’s from Ohio University and her master’s in Communication Studies from Ball State University, where she developed her passion for storytelling and skills in project management. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her Dalmatian, Anakin Skywalker, and dabbling in all things poetry and performance.