Canine Comfort at Court

BY Doug Chartier


After Judge Carlos Samour read the verdict in the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial — in which defendant James Holmes would not receive the death penalty — a young man left the courtroom in distress. A relative of one of the shooting victims, he was being consoled by a victims’ advocate as he walked to the witnesses’ waiting area — where he could find the therapy dogs.

Kathleen Kelley was there with her yellow labradoodle, Clancey. She said this was the most poignant moment she witnessed during her time working in the trial as a therapy dog handler to comfort witnesses and their families.

Sobbing, the man got down on the floor and buried his face in Clancey’s fur, Kelley said. “And he said (to Clancey), ‘Thank you — thank you so much for being here.’”

“What I saw in that moment is that we as humans can try to soothe people in their moments of grief and tragedy,” Kelley said. “But there’s something very special about a dog … because at that moment, the only thing really that could soothe him was the human-animal bond rather than human to human.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 31, 2015 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.