Meet the Service Dog Trainee With a Key Role to Play

She is being trained to provide emotional support.

Mar 22, 2022
Meet the Service Dog Trainee With a Key Role to Play | She is being trained to provide emotional support.

Therapy dogs play very important roles in hospitals, nursing homes, and other places where people need comfort and emotional support. Now, a very special dog named Holiday is being trained to be a courthouse therapy dog.

Holiday, a four-month-old yellow Labrador retriever puppy that was donated by a local breeder who lives with Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins in Maine, is being trained for that role reported The Bangor Daily News. She will be the first courthouse therapy dog in the state.

“Courthouse facility dogs can provide a sense of normalcy during juvenile and family court proceedings, and can accompany vulnerable crime victims, including children, rape victims, developmentally delayed adults and the elderly during investigations and court proceedings,” Collins told Bangor Daily News.

“They can also provide emotional comfort to family members during the trial and sentencing of the offender.”

Holiday will have an important job
As a courthouse therapy dog, Holiday’s role will be to comfort children and others who have experienced violent crime and trauma and help alleviate their stress and anxiety about being in a courtroom.

Collins stressed that therapy dogs are used in courtrooms in a way that does not disrupt the legal  proceedings or create any legal issues. “A courthouse dog can provide emotional support for everyone,” Collins said. “Burnout is a real concern for our office.”

Therapy dog training
The training will take two years for Holiday to be an officially licensed therapy dog according to the AP. She is being trained by Purpose Pups in Houlton, Maine. The company’s owner and trainer Tyler Jones is training both Holiday and Collins.

“When she is done, she will have 208 hours of training to make her specifically a working dog.” Jones told the Bangor Daily News. That’s because Holiday will have to learn to be still and silent in the courtroom, to walk to the witness stand and to remain seated there for a long period of time.

After a year of training, Holiday will be evaluated to see if she is suitable for the job. “The amount of precision training that she needs to receive is intensive,” Jones said.

“Service dog work depends on introduction, repetition and consistency. Not every dog can be a service dog. Only 30 percent of those trained actually make it.”

If all goes well, Holiday will be the first official therapy dog in the court. There is currently an “unofficial therapy dog in Houlton, a 3-year-old English mastiff who sometimes comes to the office with his owner who is a victim/witness advocate. But Holiday’s role will be a much more active one and will benefit all.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.