Therapy dog being added to juvenile court proceedings

COLUMBUS, Ind. — What may seem scary and intimidating to some children as they enter the Bartholomew County Juvenile Courtroom is about to get more comfortable as they are greeted with a new addition, a therapy dog.

Judge Lindsey Holden-Kay, the juvenile magistrate in Bartholomew Circuit Court, has taken the initial steps to bring a therapy dog into her courtroom on the third floor of the Bartholomew County Courthouse.

Her family has already adopted Stella, a 5-month-old golden retriever and poodle mix, that can be specifically trained as a therapy dog, the judge said.

Stella, whose breed is often referred to as a Golden Doodle, was chosen specifically by the judge because of her temperament traits that make her a suitable prospect for a therapy dog, according to her professional trainer, Sean Pendleton.

“Studies have shown that interacting with a dog can lower stress levels, as well as put people at ease,” Pendleton said. “The idea behind a therapy dog is to get people going through a troubling experience to take their mind off of their worries.”

Although the Bartholomew County Commissioners have not yet approved allowing a therapy dog in the courthouse, their decision won’t be needed for several months.¬†Only 5 months old, Stella cannot be certified as a therapy dog until she is 1-year-old, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) coordinator Bobbie Shake said.

“So it will be close to the first of the year before we can hope to get her certified,” Shake said.

For the complete story, see Wednesday’s Republic.