This Dog Helps Comfort Nervous Kids Who Are Testifying In CourtAshley Maisano
Merel the dog has been trained for a very special job: helping kids testify at a courthouse in London, Ontario. Testifying in court is a very nerve-wrecking thing to do, especially for kids. So it is Merel’s job to comfort them while doing so.
Merel is the Canadian province’s first dog trained to do this and has been doing a great job! Rachel Crawford, child witness program coordinator at the London Family Court Clinic, told the Dodo that the kids are much more willing to engage with them now and that they look forward to going to the courthouse to see Merel.
This special facility pup was trained by Ontario’s National Service Dogs (NSD). She is a very laid-back, relaxed dog, and will place her head in a child witness’ lap or lie down with them on the floor with a simple command.
“They are much quicker to engage in conversation about a dog they have or a dog they know, which builds rapport and allows us to have further conversations about court and what they are there to actually talk about,” Crawford told The Dodo. “She has really had an amazing impact so far.”
When Merel isn’t at court, she’s living at home with Crawford.
Training dogs like Merel cost around $30,000, and NSD gave her to the court at no cost. Although Merel is the first dog like this in Ontario, it isn’t rare to see in American courts. A dog named Suzie was sworn into a New Orleans court earlier this year to help kids the same way Merel does.