It’s a Wonderful Life (Dog Edition)

The holidays should be a time of peace and comfort. But time off can’t promise a break from the troubles that cause people to need lawyers. And lawyers recognize that their passion for helping others with problems puts them at risk of succumbing to the same stress their clients experience.

We don’t all have an angel named Clarence to rescue us when life gets bad. But sometimes all anyone needs is a bit of comfort and joy. And not just at this time of year.

So we have our own year-round solution. Maggie, the Black lab, has been coming to the office since she was a puppy. Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t have “bad days” or times when she’s too focused on a deadline to pay attention to those around her. Maggie reminds us that a bit of play and a daily walk helps make things better-and that the most important person in the room is the person who needs you the most.

Yes, we’ve known for awhile the benefits of having a “best friend” in the office. Now, it seems the Courts agree with us. In early December, a trauma dog helped a 7 year old girl as she testified at her father’s criminal trial in Calgary. “Hawk,” a three year old Black lab (!), is specially trained to work with the Calgary Police Service’s victim assistance unit. He helps by providing support to victims and witnesses of crimes, particularly children.

Ellen O’Neill-Stephens is the founder of Courthouse Dogs, a not-for-profit organization in the United States that provides information and education about using dogs to provide emotional support during legal proceedings. In the recent CBC article about Hawk, Ms. O’Neill-Stephens describes the benefit that a dog like Hawk can provide: “When a dog like Hawk is lying there quiet and comfortable, people get the unconscious message that there is nothing wrong; that there is nothing to be afraid of.”

In this case, Hawk snuggled beside the little girl during her entire testimony. The dog has been described as having an instinct to find the person in the room most in need of comfort. Those of us who spend time with Maggie on a daily basis have no trouble believing this.
Hawk may be the first dog in Canada providing support during a legal proceeding, but he is not expected to be the last. For more information about this story click here.

(If you are visiting the firm and could use a “pick me up” from Maggie, please ask; she loves to make new friends. However, if someone has allergies or concerns about Maggie’s presence, we will make sure she’s out of sight).


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