Service dogs come in many forms nowadays. In the early days they began by helping the visually impaired. Now, they help on so many levels and make a difference in so many ways. We have dogs trained to sniff things out, dogs to alert us of oncoming medical symptoms and dogs to help us cope emotionally with the world around us. That’s the category Companions for Courage (CfC) falls into. The group provides service dogs for emotional support, and now they’ve started a program for kids dealing with the legal system.
K9th Circuit Court
Similar in nature to the nationwide Courthouse Dogs Foundation, the K9th Circuit Court program in Florida (named for the 9th Judicial Circuit Court) has been put in place to help the littlest victims of crime and violence or even custody and divorce get through the trauma a court appearance can have. If you think court is scary as an adult, just imagine what kids must go through. It’s nerve racking and gut wrenching, but with a companion dog by their side kids can do what they once considered impossible: get through the day.
Wizened veterans recognize the value of the calming effect dogs can have on us. Incarcerated — and often times “hardened” — criminals are even allowed to participate in dog programs designed to heal and rehabilitate while giving a sense of purpose and responsibility. Horses are another animal that are often used for these purposes, but it’s tougher to get a horse into a courtroom than a dog — and a lot easier to clean up after. But the benefit of therapy dogs to children is every bit as great.
Companions for Courage
The group’s website sums up the reason for their existence this way: As a Community Outreach Program of The Animal League, Companions for Courage is about the victim and the dog. It’s a bond, and a sense of security that the animal brings to the child – to give them the confidence and courage to face that scary place. Just knowing the dogs are with them in the courtroom makes kids feel better, and, according to Joanne Rittenhouse, dog handler for CfC, the larger dogs seem to make them feel safer, as if the dogs were their protectors.
Therapy Dog Programs
If you’re interested in helping out with any of the wonderful programs that use therapy dogs now, you can contact them about being a volunteer, a temporary boarder, or any number of other positions that might need filling. Training these animals comes with a hefty price tag, so these non-profits can use all the help they can get. Remember, it doesn’t just take money to make a difference in life. Your time, patience, love and caring nature are every bit as important.