Who’s a good boy? Who’s the best boy? Who deserves all the treats and pets from now until the end of time? Finally, these pressing questions have answers, and it all comes down to one doggo: Titán, the five year-old Golden Retriever that works as Argentina’s first-ever courtroom therapy dog. He works to comfort and support kids and teens that come through the judicial system in order to testify as either witnesses or victims in cases of sexual or physical abuse, grooming, or gender violence.
According to Clarín, on a daily basis between three and four interview sessions take place at the judicial office located in downtown Buenos Aires; youngsters are brought in to share their statements with a team of psychologists and other professionals. It’s a sterile room where they happen, with bright lights, microphones, and a camera. Everything is live-streamed to another room in the same building where the judge, prosecutor, defendant, and another psychologist are seated. This set-up ensures that the children are shielded from any potential direct contact with their aggressors.
OK, this is all very interesting, but where does Titán come into play? “Titán is in the room next to where the interview [with the child] takes place. The kids arrive, they spend some time with him, which helps them decompress, lowers their stress levels. When they finish testifying, they spend some more time with him: this allows them to connect immediately with something that makes them feel good and leave behind the information they just had to share,” says Yael Bendel, head of the Ministry of Public Guardianship where Titán works.
Psychologists working at the Ministry have noted that “contact with the dog before testifying helps diminish anguish and anxiety in the kids, and playing with him again when they’re done neutralizes the emotional stress generated by their talking about a traumatic experience.”
In the month that he’s been on the job, Titán has worked with four children testifying in court cases, and he’s also been present at two family reunifications. When this takes place, “the dog’s presence helps facilitate the moment” when family members who haven’t seen one another for a while are back together. “It’s a progressive implementation, but it will soon be available in every interview. And we’re training a second dog that will join the team for when Titán can’t be there, or if there’s a child who is allergic.”
Good boy, Titán. Good boy.