Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

She Had To Relive The Worst Moments Of Her Life, And A Dog Got Her Through It

Gabriel Spitzer
Ivy Jacobsen of Lake Stevens communes with Lucy, one of the courthouse dogs who helped her through the trials of her father for sexual abuse.

Children who have been victimized often have to tell their stories to strangers – detectives or advocates working on their behalf, as well as attorneys working for their alleged abuser. And giving testimony in a criminal trial is stressful in the best of cases. But imagine that child could reach down and put her hand on a warm, gentle dog at her feet, to feel comforted and secure and, hopefully, composed enough to provide the facts necessary for getting justice. That’s what a foundation in Bellevueis working to provide.

Dogs have been helping humans for a long time – as long as 33,000 years, according to scientists. More recently, service dogs have been making contributions in more and more settings, from seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired to assistance dogs for people with mental health problems. Now the Courthouse Dogs Foundation is spreading the practice to legal settings and has placed nearly a hundred dogs nationwide.

But as warm and fuzzy as this sounds, reasonable people have reached very different conclusionswhen it comes to courthouse dogs. Defense attorneys, for example, have raised concerns that a dog in the courtroom could unfairly bias the jury toward an alleged victim and against the accused, who, after all, must be presumed innocent in a trial.

"Sound Effect" talks with people on both sides of this question, and we get to know a young woman named Ivy Jacobson, who with the help of three very comforting dogs, endured the three trials it took to put her father in prison after years of sexual abuse. 

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.