Cole County Courthouse introduces first therapy dog for children

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COLE COUNTY - A therapy dog started her first at work at the Cole County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon. The dog will help children dealing with abuse or neglect.

Olive is a professionally-trained therapy dog who will spend time with children who are waiting in the courthouse hallway for their cases to heard.

Olive's owner Lisa Bax said her poodle mix brought lots of smiles to the faces of children.

"Olive met with eight children today. And with the eight she met, I think everyone of them walked away with a smile, or at least for the moment when they were feeding her, petting her  they did not think about why they were in the courthouse, " she said.

Bax is also a volunteer with Capital City Court Appointed Special Advocates or Capital City CASA. She initiated the idea of having her dog help with the children's docket at at Cole County Courthouse.

James Kellerman, executive director of Capital City CASA, embraced the idea.

"We see a lot of potential benefits and opportunities. We've seen some of the children who could be very scared, very nervous, they were alone. Courts are new to them. They've never been in court before. They've been taken from their parents, put in foster care, so all those kinds of things," Kellerman said.

He said Olive is the program's first therapy dog, and they're still exploring the possibilities of using therapy dogs with children.

Bax said "Olive was a rescue," and went through intensive training in Los Angeles to become a therapy dog.

"Pull on her tail, lift her, and I can do anything to her. With that being said, she's not reacted, and that's an important thing with children. We have to make sure she's fine with them pulling tugging and no reaction," Bax said.

Kellerman said around 200 Cole County children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2015, and Olive could have even more children to help this year.

Olive is scheduled to be back at the courthouse on August 24th to work with children.

Kellerman said several other introduction sessions are also planned in the following months.