TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - There's a new staff member at the Lucas County Courthouse. Ezra is a comfort dog. He will be on duty to help witnesses and victims moving through the court process. Unlike a service dog, comfort dogs are meant to be petted and hugged.
The courthouse can be an intimidating and upsetting place. The hope is that Ezra can help replace some of the uncertainty people face, with a few smiles. He is a 20-month-old Golden Retriever.
His job is to help people cope while they're at the courthouse.
Julia Bates is the Lucas County Prosecutor,"Ezra is here to offer comfort, solace compassion to all the suffering people who come into this building and into our office and into our lives."
Ezra has only been on the job for a few weeks, but Bates says his impact is already being felt,"The dog is loving, soft, gentle and trained to offer comfort. The psychology is that any angst leaves the person and goes to the dog. It is truly remarkable to see it in action."
Ezra isn't the first comfort dog to be on duty here at the courthouse.
Anna was used during the trial of Timothy and Esten Ciboro, who were convicted of a number of things including kidnapping and rape.
Anna sat beside one of the young victims while she was on the stand testifying.
Ezra lives with Nancy Borders and her husband Mack,"Victims or witnesses can look at the dog and talk to them. The dog doesn't take notes, it doesn't tell anyone else what the person is saying. It is sometimes a lot easier to look at the dog than the person who is asking you questions."
Ezra is part of the Lutheran Church Charities Comfort Dog Ministry. Borders says he is very easy-going,"He is a lovable dog. He is soft and easy to pet. I just know he will be a big benefit to anyone who needs comfort." Lutheran Church Charities owns Ezra and covers all his costs.
In addition to his caregivers, Ezra has several handlers. One of them is Lt. Gary Condon of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, "He's very relaxed and I think he will bring that to the people he meets and help them relax and be comfortable. For me to see the difference we can provide with a dog is overwhelming. We'll be able to take it far and wide into the courts and the community."
Ezra has not yet been used during a trial, however he has been on hand for a grand jury. He will not be used in trials automatically, but on an as needed basis.The people who work in the prosecutor's office obviously deal with tragedy on a daily basis, and it's clear Ezra makes them happy too.