Courtroom Therapy DogsPublished June 17, 2011
Now imagine what a child goes through in family court. Not only is the child dealing with the trauma that brought them to the courtroom in the first place (like abuse, neglect, or mental health issues), but also the stress of what’s happening around them in the courtroom.
Enter Shannon, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier pictured above. Shannon is a part of a pilot program in Bucks County, PA to help calm children about to appear in family court. The program, run by the Doylestown-based reading therapy group Roxy Reading, was launched by Judge Robert Mellon, who recognized how overwhelming the court process can be for young children.
Though measures are in place to protect children from the chaos of the courtroom, they still must occasionally deal with distraught parents and emotional issues. The therapy dogs are there to help make the process a little less scary by providing a comforting (and furry) shoulder to lean on. Thus far, the dogs have relaxed with children in the lobby outside the courtroom, but at least one dog has accompanied a child up to the witness stand. Not surprisingly, courthouse employees have noticed the decreased tensions on the days the dogs have visited.
I’m in love with this program, and honored that Shannon and some of her canine peers stop by the store after volunteering. Shannon’s person said that our Peanut Butter & Banana dog ice cream is Shannon’s reward after putting in her time at the courthouse, but I’m sure her true reward is in the faces of the children she helps. Kudos to Shannon and the rest of the Roxy Reading crew!