Corey Wise, 11, pets Buster after a press conference announcing the Labrador retriever’s addition as courthouse facility dog for York County’s
Corey Wise, 11, pets Buster after a press conference announcing the Labrador retriever's addition as courthouse facility dog for York County's treatment courts on Monday, June 17, 2013. Corey's mother, Holly Wise, is Buster's primary handler. (Bill Kalina)

Buster handled his 15 minutes of fame with laid-back aplomb.

The 2-year-old black Labrador retriever lay quietly on the floor as York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh addressed a crowd about the benefits of courthouse facility dogs, and how York County is the second county in the state to have such a canine.

Later, Buster sat calmly as April Billet-Barclay -- chief of the county's adult probation department and Buster's new boss -- affixed his official courthouse identification badge onto his collar.

He didn't startle when the crowd applauded him, and took his sweet time standing up to take center stage.

That calm, easygoing nature is a hallmark of dogs such as Buster, according to Nancy Fierer, director of Susquehanna Service Dogs in Harrisburg, where Buster was trained.

After more than six months of training, starting when he was a tiny puppy, Buster is now ready to work his soothing magic on defendants who are part of York County's treatment courts.

Elite group: Buster is the second courthouse facility dog in Pennsylvania, Linebaugh said; the first works in Centre County.

In all, there are 44 such dogs working in courthouses around the United States, the judge said.

Buster's primary role will be to work with adults and juveniles in the county's treatment courts, including drug court, mental-health court, DUI court and veterans court.

Such dogs can help calm veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with mental-health issues and addictions, according to Andrew Franz, the county's treatment court administrator. The dogs can help ease depression and improve self-esteem, he said.

It was Franz who first heard about courthouse facility dogs and pushed to make it a reality in York County, said Mike Stough, deputy chief of adult probation.

The entire cost of the program, including Buster, was covered by Victory Athletic Association, Franz said.

Funds donated: Because Susquehanna Service Dogs takes donations to bring down the cost of service dogs, Buster and his training cost just $3,000, according to Franz, but the actual cost to breed, raise and train a courthouse facility dog is about $20,000.

Victory Athletic Association donated $13,000 to the county, "because we had some start-up costs as well," Franz said, such as bringing in the Washington state-based Courthouse Dogs Foundation to consult with everyone involved.

Mark Durgin, who serves on Victory Athletic Association's board of directors, said the organization likes to focus on helping veterans.

"It just kind of hit close to home for us," Durgin said.

'Very calm': DUI court administrator Holly Wise is Buster's handler. At the end of the day, he goes home with her and her 11-year-old son, Corey.

"Even at home, when he's free to be a dog ... he's very calm, very relaxed and very good," Wise said.

Shiloh Veterinary Hospital will provide Buster's veterinary care at no cost, according to Colleen Igo, spokeswoman for the county's treatment courts.

Treatment courts are designed to keep offenders out of prison and help them become productive, law-abiding citizens by addressing their problems, rather than simply punishing them.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.