Dog sworn in to help comfort children in court

Juvenile court judge praises community efforts to ease children’s fears.
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 8:00 PM EST
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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - Sophie, the golden retriever who has gone through training to comfort children, calmly took her place now along with other volunteers to serve in Hamblen County Juvenile Court.

Judge Janice Snider swore in the canine Wednesday afternoon, along with her handler, Marie Nicely with Lakeway Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Judge Snider said most children can relate to a friendly dog they can spend time with, even inside courthouse walls.

“These children are nervous and they are scared. Sophie will help them adjust in court,” she said. Snider works with children who must be placed in state custody and with families to eventually reunite them when possible. “She (Sophie) will help the kids feel a lot more comfortable about being here.”

Nicely said Sophie finished training around the time the pandemic began, then her swearing in had to be delayed until courthouse routines became more normal again.

Sophie has already been serving as an ambassador for Lakeway CASA, after being donated by local attorney Whitney Trujillo.

“She’s just soft and gentle and wants to have a hug so we thought she’d make a good dog for CASA,” Trujillo said.

Lakeway CASA Director Kelley Williams said it would be good to have more CASA volunteers able to work with trained dogs like Sophie, and to be able to serve even more counties within the Lakeway area.

A new training session is starting for volunteers in early January. To sign up, call 423-307-5762.

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