Lucy the ‘lucky lab’ goes from being a rescue dog to helping people in court

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Emma Siossian

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October 10, 2018 07:00:33

Video: Owner Ivan Smith and Lucy the lucky labrador

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Lucy is an exuberant and friendly labrador who loves people, but was rejected by three families before finding love in her forever home.The lab is now helping others face their own stressful situations and has become a popular weekly visitor at the Taree courthouse, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.The three-year-old canine is helping people calm down and smile, at what can be a stressful time, as they wait to appear in court.Lucy greets people with boisterous affection. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
Lucy set to continue drawing smilesMr Smith and Lucy planned to continue visiting the Taree courthouse, and perhaps even some other institutions in the future.”The plan for the future is to get her to calm down a little more and then take her to the old people’s homes and hospitals and things like that. She’s great with children too,” Mr Smith said.”We don’t know what we’d do if something happened to her.”

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Lucy greets people at the Taree courthouse every Tuesday morning. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
A happy home after a rough startMr Smith was first introduced to Lucy at the RSPCA. Her tail and whole body wiggle with happiness and excitement, and she’s always ready to nuzzle a hand.Lucy’s owner Ivan Smith said the court staff looked forward to seeing her every Tuesday and she’d had a positive impact.”I take her into the foyer and she’ll run up to everyone and get cuddles and pats,” he said.”I just tell them she’s the world’s friendliest dog and she’s a lucky dog, give her a pat, and they usually walk into the court with a bit of a smile on their face.”They’ve told me from the office that there hasn’t been an argument or fight here in the four months since Lucy has been coming to the court.”Those waiting outside the court, including Les Garvey, agreed it was wonderful to have Lucy around.”It’s just what people need, someone there you can talk to, who you know is listening,” he said.Robert Kelly was also happy to spend time with Lucy.”It just helps with anxiety. I mean everyone here is nervous about what’s going on, it’s a court, but just having her here obviously helps,” he said.Mr Smith said there was definitely something special about his labrador and she was able to sense when people needed help.”We were with Lucy at a gathering with about 40 people,” he said.”The minute we arrived she just concentrated on two people — the first one was a person who had cancer and was in remission and the second one was my younger brother who had terminal cancer.”

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Lucy offers affection to those waiting to appear in court. “We had already lost two border collies from old age and decided to go to the RSPCA to get a dog,” Mr Smith said.”We wanted an older one, but Lucy wouldn’t leave us alone and she just kept coming over to us and nudging us.”Three homes she’d gone to and each one had brought her back.”She was nine months old and we opened the car door and in she went and we thought, ‘We’ve got a dog’.”

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Lucy the lab was a rescue dog before Ivan Smith took her into his home. Canine Companion Program volunteers wantedGuide Dogs NSW/ACT is seeking volunteer therapy dog handlers to join the programHandlers will work with a therapy dog to help provide support to potentially anxious or distressed court usersVolunteers should enjoy socialising with people, have a genuine love of dogs and good dog handling skillsVolunteers will be required for around two mornings a week for 12 monthsFor more information go to www.guidedogs.com.au
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is training dozens of labradors as part of the Canine Court Companion Program.They’ll provide support at the Burwood, Campbelltown, Gosford, Goulburn, Lismore, Manly, Nowra, Orange, Sutherland and Taree courthouses and will be there by mid-2019.Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO Dale Cleaver said a pilot program at Manly found anxious victims and witnesses felt more relaxed and ready to give evidence after interacting with the calming canines.”The aim of the program is to have some of our therapy dogs in courthouses and their role is to … help anyone who’s stressed and in need of therapy,” he said.”We had really good feedback from those who were involved but also [from] the police and staff in the court.”Courts can be stressful places and the results showed that the presence of a dog can really help calm people and it can lower anxiety.”

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Ivan and his dog Lucy visit the Taree court each week. He had gone there intending to bring home an older dog, but friendly and boisterous Lucy, who had already been brought back by three families, had other ideas. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
Canine Court Companion Program to start next yearMr Smith said he was inspired to start taking Lucy to the court after reading about NSW Government plans to introduce therapy dogs into some courthouses next year. She now regularly visits people at the Taree courthouse, where she helps people feel more relaxed. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
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