Just because Legend failed the test to become a service dog doesn't mean he can't be of service. The two-year-old Labrador retriever was training to become a guide dog when his trainers noticed that he had a particular warmness for children. Although Legend never excelled at guiding people across the street, he did excel at helping kids feel comfortable confronting past abuse and telling their stories in a courtroom. Now, the dog is officially joining the Kern County District Attorney's Office, in California, as the office's first-ever canine staffer.
"We once met with a 15-year-old molestation victim, who didn't want to share her story," Legend's owner, deputy district attorney Kenneth Green, told HLN. "When Legend put his head in her lap, she started to cry, and her story came spilling out."
As Green explained, Legend has to stay hidden from view when he accompanies victims to court, as his presence might sway the jury. He took on his first case last week, and entered the courtroom quietly with an 11-year-old witness who had been asked to take the stand. Legend kept his head resting in the child's lap until jurors exited the courtroom. Although the dog has since been trained to understand "comfort" as a command, Green told HLN that Legend knew how to calm kids without any help. The Lab's presence has been enough to make a number of children share their stories.
While it's out of the ordinary for a dog like Legend to come on permanently as a DA's assistant, comfort and therapy dogs are often used to help children cope with trauma or abuse. Organizations like Gabriel's Angels of Phoenix introduce at-risk children to therapy dogs at a young age to foster healthy behaviors and respect for others. Larger groups, such as Therapy Dogs International, bring comforting canines to children's hospitals, where they help kids who are fighting for their lives.