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Staff photo by Rafael Garcia  

Melissa Strobel, left, and Meagan Klein lift dumbbells while their children wait behind in strollers at Stroller Strong Moms’ first class Tuesday morning in City Park. The class meets four times a week to give moms in the area the chance to “SLAM (sweat like a mother),” said Hannah Conser, class instructor.


People
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STRESS RELIEF
St. George woman uses massage therapy to help dogs

Jill Rheaume knows what you’re thinking when you hear about the type of business she operates.

“Yes, it’s a thing,” Rheaume said about Healing Companion, her canine massage therapy business.

Rheaume, 40, of St. George has operated Healing Companion for more than a year after opening her office inside MuttSchool, a dog training school just east of Manhattan Regional Airport.

Many people don’t realize the everyday stressors that can affect a dog, Rheaume said. Stress can manifest itself in dogs as panting, pacing, vomiting, lethargy and other behaviors. Some regular stressors she has seen include beeping from smoke alarms when batteries need to be replaced, being continually aggravated by neighboring dogs when they go outside, and traveling, which disrupts daily routines.

“A lot of day-to-day things can stress your dog out, even you,” Rheaume said. “If you come home stressed out from a bad day, that can totally ruin your dog’s day.”

The benefits of massage therapy for dogs are similar to those for humans, Rheaume said, such as reduced pain and inflammation from arthritis and injuries, increased circulation, and stress and anxiety relief.

Rheaume credited her 12-year-old pit bull, Gunner, for inspiring her to open her business and help animals. She and her husband rescued Gunner when he was about 2 years old in 2009. She said his previous owners planned to start breeding pit bulls, and they were going to euthanize Gunner because they did not have a place for him and he did not have the coat color they wanted.

“We were like, ‘We can’t let you put this dog down,’” Rheaume said. “He’s great, and he’s been perfect from day one. He sleeps in, he doesn’t touch anything in the house that’s not his, he doesn’t go to the bathroom in the house, he doesn’t play too rough, he likes everybody.”

The couple also rescued their other 2-year-old pit bull, Tugboat. For years, Rheaume said, she volunteered with Wildcat Pet Resort and animal rescue transportation, in which volunteers help take animals in neglected situations to places that can care for them. The longest transport chain Rheaume had been a part of was transferring a dog from Florida to Alaska.

“Gunner changed my life so dramatically that I wanted to do more and I wanted to give back more,” she said. “I found out that a lot of dogs, the only way that they make it out of shelters and into rescue groups, or make it out of bad situations, are from unpaid volunteer transporters.

“It’s just an hour-, two-hour ride with dogs in your car that you’ve never met,” Rheaume said. “They don’t know you, they don’t know what is going on. Sometimes they’ve been heavily abused. I had one that couldn’t even stand, and yet it’s almost like they know that something good is happening.”

Rheaume picked up canine massage therapy in recent years because she noticed that as Gunner aged, he was developing anxiety, moving stiffly and it took him longer to get to places.

Rheaume said she wanted to take him somewhere to have the service done, but there was no one in the area who did canine massage therapy at the time.

So, Rheaume took it upon herself and received her certification in the field from the Equissage Animal Massage Therapy School.

In 2018, Rheaume dropped her job in accounting to focus full time on building Healing Companion and creating her own line of animal-safe aromatherapy products.

When she first started, Rheaume said she thought she would be doing more work related to pain, sore muscles, arthritis and sporting dogs. While she does handle those cases, she said she often sees dogs with anxiety and stress problems.

“Especially with the (Fourth of July) fireworks and everything, I was so busy,” Rheaume said. “If you think about it, if you’re a person and you’re really stressed out, you think, ‘I need to get a massage.’

It helps in the same ways. It’s hard for people to think of their dogs in that way and to think about the stress, anxiety and emotions of your dogs.”


News
USD 383 continues budget discussion Wednesday

The Manhattan-Ogden school board will hear an update on the district’s budget and give feedback to district personnel on what adjustments they’d like to see.

The board meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Robinson Education Center, 2031 Poyntz Ave.

Lew Faust, director of business services, said now that the state released its budget software for school districts to use last week, he’s been working to finalize a budget with projections for the district’s property tax rate to present to the board Wednesday evening.

Last month, Faust told the board he was projecting a 7.8-mill increase, bringing the total to 18 mills this school year in the district’s bond and interest property tax rate after voters approved $129.5 million in district projects. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.

Just that increase — which doesn’t take into account other components of the district’s property tax levies — would bring the property tax rate from 56.79 mills to 64.59 mills.

Based on a 0.4% increase in the average value of a Riley County home, a homeowner paying $607.09 in school taxes for a $100,000 home in 2019 would pay $699.76 for a $100,400 home in 2020. That’s an increase of $92.67 or 15.26%.

The board also will review staff handbooks for its custodians, food service workers, paraeducators, instructional aides, substitute teachers and transportation workers at the meeting.


Crime
2019 crime projected to be 8.7% higher than 2018

The total crime rate for 2019 is expected to increase 8.7% from 2018, according to a Riley County Police Department report.

RCPD Director Dennis Butler presented a monthly crime update at Monday’s Riley County Law Enforcement Agency Board — or law board — meeting at the Ogden Community Center.

If the crime rate continues on its current trajectory, the 8.7% increase would translate to about 1,612 reported Part I crimes, which include robbery, theft, rape, murder, aggravated assault and other offenses.

The report says the majority of the increase comes from a spike in aggravated assaults this year, as well as an “unprecedented” spike in larceny in January and a general rising trend in motor vehicle thefts since 2014.

Butler said it is important to look at crime rates over the long term. Comparing June 2019’s 112 incidents to the five-year average for that month, total Part I crime is actually down 7.9%, but the year-to-date crime is 10.4% higher than the average.

Butler said 2014 slightly skews the five-year trend average as it was an “unusually low year for crime” with 1,273 reported incidents.

“The one trend that we have noticed that is definitely higher, whether you include 2014 or not, is in the crime of aggravated assault,” Butler said.

Aggravated assault is putting someone in immediate bodily harm using a weapon or while disguised.

Internal research shows that 75% of reported aggravated assaults occur between people who know each other. The incidents also include domestic violence situations.

In June, there were eight aggravated assaults and six aggravated batteries, a 6.7% decrease from June 2018 but a 34.6% increase from the June five-year average. With the exception of two incidents, all the incidents were committed by a person the victim knew.

Butler said police try to mitigate those situations by educating people about their resources.

“(We educate) people about if you’re in a domestic violence relationship and resources you can access to try to stop the violence or escape the violence,” Butler said. “Those sometime help, but as far a predictor, how do we prevent it from happening — other than education when three quarters of the victims and assailants know each other — is very challenging. I don’t have an answer for you specifically.”

According to the report, there were five robberies in June —four from a person and one from a business.

One incident was cleared with an arrest and one was dropped.

Property crime was also down 15.4% from June 2018 with 88 incidents and down 17.3% from the five-year average. A majority of those crimes were larcenies but also included 10 structural burglaries, 14 larcenies from motor vehicles and eight auto thefts. In five of the auto thefts, the keys were inside the vehicle when it was taken.

Butler advised citizens to always lock their cars, take their keys with them and hide valuables out-of-sight.

“People who are interested in stealing cars will just walk down the street trying car doors,” he said. “If they find one unlocked, they’ll go in and steal what they can. If they find keys, a lot of times they’ll take the car and go somewhere.”


Courts
breaking
Junction City man pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit 2017 murder

A Junction City man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in a last-minute agreement Friday, according to Assistant Riley County Attorney Kendra Lewison.

Steven Meredith, 33, had been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy, stemming from the October 2017 death of 48-year-old Carrie Jones.

An eight-day jury trial had been slated to begin Monday.

Lewison said the state agreed it would seek a lesser sentence of 20 years, or 240 months, in prison and Meredith would be allowed to ask for a lesser sentence of no less than 15 years.

Lewison said both counsels were working on final preparations Friday for the trial when Meredith initiated the plea negotiations. He had previously turned down a deal in June.

Prosecutors said that Meredith killed Jones because she worked as a confidential informant for police and believed she would would provide information about him in a drug case in which he was later convicted.

During a preliminary hearing in January, witnesses testified Meredith told them he had shot Jones around the time reports revealed Jones had been killed. Hunters later found Jones’ body in a field in rural southern Riley County.

Lewison added that Meredith’s sister, Samantha Bland, had also pleaded no contest to intimidation of a witness related to a person who testified at Meredith’s preliminary hearing. She was placed under probation and released back to Texas, where she resides.

A sentencing for Meredith is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Riley County Courthouse.