Imagine being a little girl and having to recount the details of a sexual assault perpetrated against you to a roomful of adults and your abuser.
Now imagine you have a canine companion at your feet to help soothe you.
That’s exactly how Maddie, a Labrador mix from Aurora, Colorado, helps children.
A certified therapy dog, Maddie has been visiting the Arapahoe County DA’s office since 2007, where she and her handler, Julie Sugioka, counsel young people in the juvenile diversion program. However, Maddie’s role as a source of victim support is a new one, and her presence at the girl’s feet was the first time a dog has been allowed into the courtroom.
The girl attempted to testify last fall, but broke down on the stand. Trying the case again this spring, the girl had the support of Maddie, and was able to speak.
Though the practice itself is nothing new, it has met with some controversy, especially from defense attorneys, who believe a dog may sway jurors. In this particular case, however, the jury was alerted to Maddie’s presence, but the Lab mix was kept hidden behind the stand, and entered and exited the courtroom only when the jury was not there.
Either way, we think this story testifies to the power of dogs.
The verdict? Dogs are awesome.
Story and images via the Aurora Sentinel