National Puppy Day ain't over yet, and this just may be the most inspiring dog story of all time. Did you know there is a team of "courtroom dogs" that are trained to help kids who have survived crime or abuse? And for these pups, "help" often simply translates to "cuddle."
"They have never been in a courtroom, you know, in their lives," San Bernardino County District Attorney told PBS NewsHour of the children who work with these dogs. "And add on top of that, they’re going to have to discuss, and tell a jury about how they were either physically abused, sexually abused, and have to relive those horrible moments in their lives."
We already know that dogs — and animals in general — can work wonders for the mental health of humans. "Dogs actually help us release oxytocin, which is the calming hormone and the bonding hormone," Jill Felice, founder of Assistance Dogs of the West, told PBS. "And when you are able to have that hormone going through your body, as opposed to the stress hormone, cortisol, it’s much easier to tell your story."
That's why "courtroom dogs" like Lupe and Dozer (those names!) are so important: They alleviate anxiety for children of all ages while those kids provide crucial testimony in their cases — testimony that might otherwise be too traumatic for them to rehash. Plus, the dogs literally stand by the kids through it all — even when even their parents can't.
"I couldn’t be right there, where the mom is supposed to be," explained Pearl Curiel, whose daughters both are survivors of abuse and had to testify about the crimes. "I couldn’t hold my daughter and rub her back while she talked, you know? But he [Dozer] was. He was able to say, You know what? I’m not going to leave you. And I’m going to sit right next to you, and you can pet me, and you can talk to me, you know?"
It sounds like Pearl's daughters were equally affected by Dozer's loving nature.
"I felt kind of scared, but once I saw Dozer with me, I wasn’t scared anymore," her youngest explains.