What makes a great therapy dog? That’s a question we are frequently asked and the first word that always comes to mind is “heart.” They must have heart—to trust, to give and expect nothing in return, to know what a human needs and give it with no reservation. And the human must trust their dog to know exactly what that child/adult/patient needs, giving the dog the ability to work its magic, and magic it truly is.
Beesley’s Paw Prints Pet Therapy Program here at the Children’s Advocacy Center has over 40 of these magical teams. Of these 40, ten provide therapeutic comfort at the Lee County courthouse. CAC has been in the courthouse with dogs since 2016.
Recently, one of our teams, Joy and Zuke, made a huge impact on three witnesses and helped their hearts to heal. While most of the cases we are asked to help with involve children, we do get asked to help with adults now and then. This particular high profile case involved three adult sexual assault victims required to testify against their abuser.
Zukunft (Zuke), is a fluffy, soulful-eyed pup who never lets his “Mom,” Joy Augustine, out of his sight. She is truly Mom, as she bottle-fed Zuke from the time he was three days old. Joy and Zuke have been volunteering for CAC since May 2019. Joy knew from the start that Zuke had a heart filled with love ready to give, a heart that allowed him to comfort and sooth these three witnesses who faced their attacker across an intimidating and frightening courtroom.
Zuke’s quiet, loving acceptance of their fear, grief and anger allowed them to move one step closer toward healing. With arms wrapped tightly around his neck, one of the witnesses who had just finished testifying whispered quietly in Zuke’s ear, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”