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There will be a friendly face on the fourth floor of the Westmoreland County Courthouse.
It has whiskers, a wet nose and soft fuzzy ears.
The wagging tails and patient, friendly demeanor of therapy dogs will greet children who may be nervous about a family court hearing.
“The biggest stress and anxiety … is right prior to court,” said Shara Saveikis, director of the county children’s bureau. “It’s a very tense situation whenever you’re in court. You can actually feel the stress in the room.”
County commissioners on Thursday approved agreements with 13 therapy dog handlers who will set up shop in family court on Mondays and Wednesdays on a rotating basis starting next week. One or two dogs — ranging from a small Yorkshire terrier to a large Shiloh shepherd — will spend about two hours in a waiting room there in the mornings and then the afternoons while children and families arrive for dependency hearings. That type of proceeding is held when a child is removed from an situation of abuse or neglect.
Photo credit: Dan Speicher, Tribune-Review