Hatty the black Labrador Retriever has a very important job. In late October, she was sworn in to serve the Cook County State Attorney’s office as a facility dog. She even placed her right paw on a law book during her swearing-in ceremony. Now, she spends her days helping children who are victims of sexual assault in Illinois.
Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney says that Hatty was trained to help children navigate the criminal justice system. The comforting canine is part of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Unit. Because retelling a story of assault or abuse can cause trauma all over again, the State’s Attorney’s office brought on Hatty to help.
Comfort in the Courthouse
“Coming to this work with compassion and understanding of victims’ experiences helps to ensure the system is fair and just to everyone,” says Cook. “Hatty was trained to help provide comfort and relaxation while victims are in the courthouse or while they are giving their testimony.”
Hatty is a big part of the office’s focus on better serving both victims and witnesses, Foxx said. As such, she’ll comfort children and empower them to tell their stories.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office proudly shared the news about Hatty and her new job on Twitter, writing, “A trauma-informed approach begins with understanding the physical, social, and emotional impact of trauma on the individual. We are proud to have a resource like Hatty to provide a source of comfort for victims as they navigate this difficult process.”
Foxx told ABC 7 that, as a facility dog, Hatty is intended to be a calming, stable presence for children. She’s meant to help build a rapport with kids during a particularly difficult time. She’ll sit with the children during interviews and even sit at their feet on the witness stand if they have to testify. Lastly, she’ll, of course, be available for snuggles at any time.
Perfectly Paired Service Dogs & Facility Dogs
Hatty is the office’s first facility dog. She was trained by Duo Dogs Inc., and part of her training was completed by inmates at a local prison. She’ll be handling 150 to 200 cases a year. She’s two-years-old and will be working a 9-to-5 schedule.
Duo Dogs is a not-for-profit organization in St. Louis that provides skilled service dogs to people with disabilities, in addition to providing facility dogs across the country. Specializing in mobility assistance dogs for individuals and facility dogs for venues, they place these dogs at no cost to the client.
Duo Dogs also offers dogs who can help with reading assistance to local students (called Paws for Reading), educational programs, and more. They have a TOUCH program that certifies volunteers and their own dogs to visit facilities. If you’re interested in helping Duo Dogs, they offer a lot of opportunities to get involved.
Volunteer opportunities include being a “whelper helper” who gives 24/7 care to puppies from birth to eight weeks. Others raise puppies from eight weeks to 18 weeks, including basic obedience training and socializing. Or you can be a “Joy Bringer” and bring in your own dog for training to work in the community. Every volunteer makes a difference, and the success evidenced by dogs like Hatty is all the more reason to consider helping out.