Late December, we had a surprise for the children in our Pine Manor After School Program.
Misty the miniature horse came for a visit! A big thank you to Lark Campisano from Endless
Trails Stables in N. Ft. Myers for providing such a fun afternoon for all of us.
In December, we also held our annual holiday party for the volunteers in our Beesley's Paw Prints Pet Therapy program. Additional guests of honor were Carol Beesley and Cliff Smith, Hannah Pelle and Madison Mitchell from United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee Counties, all of whom make this program possible for CAC. And a shout out to CAC’s Lisa Talcott for running the program. Thank you everyone!
Also last month, one of our pet therapy volunteers, Ellen Ferguson, brought her rescue horse, Reno, to the Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry, & Glades Counties, to interact with the clients who meet there as part of a FL Dept. of Corrections transition program. For many it was the first time "up close & personal" with a horse--feeding, brushing and walking Reno. Thank you Ellen and Reno!
When a child is required to go to court, that’s scary enough, but to go to court and testify against the abuser; well you can only imagine. The therapy dogs and their handlers, the lifeblood of our Beesley's Paw Prints Pet Therapy program here at the Children’s Advocacy Center, are able to help with the stress in our own special way.
Fansee, an English Cream Golden Retriever therapy dog owned by Kim Corby, waits patiently outside the courtroom doors, secure in the knowledge that the child she needs to help is testifying just on the other side. When the child emerges, Fansee’s tail wags with glee as she is simultaneously enveloped by the arms of a child in need.
Our courtroom dog program, which began in 2016, took a big step this year with the help of judges and state attorneys. CAC’s volunteer therapy dogs are now allowed to be outside of the courtroom with children who are waiting to testify in the criminal side of their case. Our volunteer pet teams are in the Family Court area as well.
Each of our ten court dog teams has a red vest emblazoned with a patch of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, which makes it clear to everyone that this is indeed a very special dog. Once the team passes through security, they take a short elevator ride to the third floor and the Family Court waiting area. Here you may find one of the dogs sprawled on the floor with a young one brushing the dog’s hair, or one of the attorneys with a big smile on his face while he pets the four-legged ambassador. Often, the judges themselves may take a break just to spend some time with these incredibly special dogs.
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When the State’s Attorney has a child that will be testifying against an abuser, their office will contact Lisa Talcott, CAC’s Pet Therapy Coordinator, to schedule a team to be at court to comfort that child before and after testifying. The calming affect that the dog has on the child is immediately evident; their breathing slows and a calmness envelopes both the dog and the child.
Our hope is that one day the therapy dogs will be allowed in the courtroom with their child so they may be an unseen comfort as they testify. For now, these amazing dogs will be spreading their love, one child at a time in the waiting area outside the Family Courtroom.