Helping make the sad things seem not so bad.
Who we are
As a part of the community outreach program of The Animal League, Companions for Courage is 501(c)(3) non-profit group made up of volunteer teams comprised of a handler and a special therapy dog. Volunteer teams help child victims testify in court, and to “help make the sad things seem not so bad”.
What we do
We assist children trying to cope with traumatic situations. Traumatic situations include death of a loved one, abuse, loss of home, or sickness. Volunteers and their therapy dogs help give courage to child victims by accompanying them into a courtroom, a deposition, or counseling.
What we want
We want child victims to feel safe in court, depositions, and counseling sessions. Companions for Courage is about the victim and the dog. It's about a bond and sense of security that our therapy dog brings to the child. We want to give each child the confidence and courage to face that scary place.
Turn the clock back to when you were 7 years old.
Life was about Legos, teddy bears, cartoons, and chocolate chip cookies. The scariest thing you had to face was your teacher because you forgot to practice your spelling words, or maybe a sudden thunderstorm rolling in. Now picture yourself walking into a full courtroom with what feels like hundreds of eyes on you while you sit alone in a witness box and the person that put you there is staring right at you. Now you have to talk about something horrible that you would much rather forget and never acknowledge ever again. Hard to imagine? It is for most of us, but unfortunately, it is a reality for too many children today.
Through the eyes of a child.
On a clear, pretty day in Central Florida, a child walks into the courthouse with a Companions for Courage dog by her side. The child has been through some tough times; through no fault of her own. Someone she trusted hurt her in a very bad way. Now, today, she must sit in front of strangers in a strange and scary place - and in front of the person who hurt her - and tell these strangers her very painful, private story.
She walks to the witness stand with a Companion dog by her side. A stranger puts a book before her and asks her to tell the truth. Why would she say anything else? The lawyers and judge ask her questions; some not so bad, but some very bad. As these traumatic memories make it difficult for her to answer, she kicks off her shoes and runs her bare toes over the dog's soft fur. This makes things a little easier; knowing her furry friend is there to comfort her and protect her if need be. Things are said, voices are loud, people are getting angry. Again, she reaches under the table and strokes the dog's head. Just knowing a Companion dog is there stops her from shivering.
When the talking is done, she walks out of the courtroom, with her Companion dog by her side. She did a great job telling her story.
And now... the healing can begin...
Companions for Courage dogs have been evaluated and labeled as being “bomb proof”: they do not react to loud noises, sudden movement, or other distractions. Their focus is to be a Companion, or best friend for their child, and nothing else.
The Companions for Courage Dogs are there for virtually any child in need – whether it be in a hospital room, a counseling center, or even a shelter, our teams are ready to visit. We even make special visits to schools and children’s events.