GATESVILLE, Texas (KWTX) The latest addition to the staff at the Coryell County Courthouse in Gatesville has four legs, fur and a calming influence on crime victims.
Winston. (Photo by Christy Edwards)
The furry, four legged Labradoodle named Winston is turning frowns into smiles, Assistant Crime Victims Coordinator Jenny Featherston said.
"We have some children who come in and they'll put their headphones on and they don't want to talk, they don't want to speak to anybody until they see Winston," Featherston said.
The Labradoodle was donated to Coryell County by Patriot Paws, an organization that trains therapy and service dogs for veterans.
Since December Winston has been an active part of the courthouse staff.
"To have Winston here has already provided an immediate impact,” Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd said.
Winston visits with victims before they go into court and in some cases he is there when they testify.
"Our young victims are here in the criminal justice system they are here because of something a human or a person did and it's really hard and challenging for them to overcome trust and communication issues,” Boyd said.
“So when you engage a therapy dog like Winston it really brakes those boards and those barriers down,” he said.
Featherston said dogs can be remarkably therapeutic.
"There is something about stroking a dog that's so calming," Featherston said.
Patriot Paws Assistant Training Director Cindy Sutton was one of Winston’s trainers and said he is the perfect therapy dog.
"The more you pet him the more he just comforts you and it really just makes that person that’s going through a bad situation feel better, they can just relate to the dog and it just changes them,” Sutton said.
Coryell County is one of the only counties in Central Texas to have a therapy dog in court and Boyd says it’s something every county should consider.
"A therapy dog is very different than having a support person of some kind that some may argue may influence a person one way or another in court, the only way Winston influences our victims is to give them comfort, support and encourage," Boyd said.