Juvenile Court introduces therapy dog program

The Beauregard Parish juvenile court system is hoping to ease what can be a stressful experience for children enduring difficult family situations by bringing in a certified therapeutic visitation dog named Blue.

Blue and his handler, Judy Bailey, were invited to interact with children in the central lobby of the courthouse where families and juveniles await their turn to be heard by Judge C. Kerry Anderson.

Anderson said he heard a presentation delivered by Bailey at a recent Rotary Club meeting in DeRidder and instantly thought of the connection some of those children may have with Blue.

“I thought it would be a wonderful way to help those children cope with what can be a very stressful and anxiety-filled day as they await their turn to be seen in the courtroom,” Anderson said.

Trisha Casey, a children’s attorney with Acadiana Legal Services in Lake Charles, said she supports the introduction of a therapy dog into the court system because most often the children involved in the juvenile courts have been removed via court order from their homes and families, and are now in the process of attempting to reunite.

“There is a lot of uncertainty for children in these procedures,” Casey said. “Some of them will have to speak before the judge and that can be extremely stressful and even frightening for some of them. I am very encouraged to see this type of program being introduced in a local courtroom, especially in a smaller, more rural area such as Beauregard Parish.”

Casey said that by being able to interact with the dog, children are able to turn their nervousness into excitement.

Bailey said she witnessed such a response first-hand last week during Blue’s first appearance at the courthouse.

“More than one child actually did not want to leave at the end of the day because they said they wanted to be where Blue was,” she said. “To know that by just simply being there for them to pet and interact with, that Blue was able to make such a tough day better for these children made everything I have done to get him to these point worthwhile.”

Blue, a stray catahoula and Australian shepherd mix, found his way to Bailey’s doorstep in September last year and she said that at first she was not sure what to make of the animal. Despite being an active, jumpy dog she said his calm demeanor won her over.

After a few pet behavior classes, she said she often got remarks that Blue would make a great therapy dog.

“I didn’t even know really what a therapy dog did, and then I discovered visitation therapy dogs and I knew that’s what I needed to do with him,” she said.

By the end of 2016, the duo became certified as a team and Blue has since made himself a known face among local nursing homes and hospitals.

“It’s always amazing to see the difference a therapy dog can make in the lives of someone who is hurting, be it physically or emotionally,” she said. “Some residents of these facilities might not even acknowledge anyone at all, but they will see Blue and suddenly speak to request to pet him. A dog helps so many people cope with the things they are struggling with in a way that no human being ever could.”

””

FILE PHOTO: Blue and his handler, Judy Bailey, were invited to interact with children in the central lobby of the courthouse where families and juveniles await their turn to be heard by Judge C. Kerry Anderson.

Pamela SleezerBeauregard and Vernon Parish Reporter
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