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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Therapy Dogs Easing Stress for Victims of Violent Crime as They Prepare to Testify

These days, life is carefree for 5-year-old Lexi Lohr. But last year, something terrible happened to her. Mr. Chad. He did something bad … He was going to smack me," she recalled.

Mr. Chad is Chad Wiles, Lexi's former babysitter. He was accused of beating her.

To build a case, prosecutors needed Lexi to testify — a scary proposition for any victim of abuse, let alone a young child.

But officials in Carroll County, Md., had just added a new member to their prosecution team who would prove critical to the case: Buddy the therapy dog.

Buddy, an 11-month-old black lab/Newfoundland mix, was with Lexi while she met with prosecutors in preparation for the trial. For Lexi, it was love at first sight.

Asked if Buddy would make her feel happy when she's sad, she energetically replied, "Yes, he would."

And the reason is simple.

"Because he's a dog! I like dogs! … And I'm gonna marry Buddy!"

Buddy made the judicial system less intimidating for Lexi. She felt more comfortable talking to prosecutors and agreed to testify.

Faced with that prospect, Chad Wiles opted out of a trial and the court convicted him of a child abuse charge. [Mark Godsey]

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