Beesley’s Paw Prints
Pet Therapy Program
The Beesley’s Paw Prints Pet Therapy program is funded by Ms. Carol Beesley through the United Way and has been in existence since 2015. Our program has three branches; puppy lobby greeters, therapy dogs in individual/group sessions at the Children’s Advocacy Center and at various partners in the community, and in the Courthouse of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. Each of our volunteer teams of handlers/dogs are registered and insured through either Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Inc., or Pet Partners, and are required to provide proof of registration each year.
The Three Branches of Beesley’s Paw Prints
The first branch of Beesley’s Paw Prints, our volunteer lobby greeters, love to welcome each client to the Children’s Advocacy Center with a cute and cuddly puppy (or adult dog) on loan to the agency from the Gulf Coast Humane Society for the day.
The greeters teach children how to interact and pet the pup, and the pup provides a great distraction and stress reliever to both the children and the adults.
Beesley’s Paw Prints volunteers also provide a tremendous service to therapists and organizations throughout Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties. Therapy dogs and their handlers provide comfort and support to individuals and groups that are working through trauma in many different partner agencies, including SalusCare, Salvation Army, PACE and Lutheran Services. Children and adults alike benefit from the quiet support that a dog can bring to a therapy session. The dogs pass no judgment and tell no secrets.
The third and final branch of the program consists of a select few of our teams that volunteer in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit court system for the children and their guardians in the Family Court system, as well as in the criminal courts. One of our teams is always on hand in the waiting area when the judge has reviews and if a child is asked to testify against his/her abuser, the State’s Attorney will request one of our courthouse teams to visit with the child before their appearance and after, as a way to help comfort the child.
CAC’s Court Dogs
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 that stress.
CAC’s courtroom dog program began in 2016. Our volunteer therapy dogs are 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.
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.
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.