By Meda Kessler
Brady and Scout are furry friends to those children dealing with the criminal justice system. They also keep each company at work.
You know it’s a tough job when an emotional support dog has its own support canine.
But imagine being a child who has either witnessed criminal activity or been a victim and then had to deal with talking to lawyers and judges. Imagine having to take the witness stand by yourself in a courtroom.
Brady, a 6-year-old golden retriever, helps those kids get through a tough time. That’s why he is one of the most popular employees in the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth.
CDA Sharen Wilson, who has been in office since 2015, is a dog lover who has two of her own at home. Knowing the value of canine companionship during stressful times, Wilson brought Brady into the office five years ago (he lives with two of the staffers in the office). “He’s been a game changer for adults and kids,” says Wilson.
Found as a stray puppy in a field in Midland, Brady was taken in by Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas. He’s had professional training and is the perfect dog at work. With a vest and his own badge to identify him as a working dog, he pretty much has free range of the building. Everyone seems to know him, and the feeling is mutual.
But Brady really comes to life when he’s on the job. On any given day, he might sit quietly with a victim or with the family, who go through their own range of emotions. He’s drawn to children and to police in uniform, innately knowing who might need his support. “When we’re talking to victims, you can see them relax a bit when Brady is nearby,” says Wilson. “And it’s obvious that Brady is aware of their emotions, too. You can see it in his face and his behavior. But when he goes home each day, he gets to be a regular dog.”
He is trained so well that when he is needed, he will enter the courtroom before the jury is seated and will lie quietly under the witness stand. The jurors can’t see him, but the child witness can take comfort in the fact that he is there.
“Brady is used to routine, so during the pandemic, he really missed the judges who walked by every day,” says Wilson. Jury trials are still waiting to be scheduled, but people make special visits just to see the dogs.
So while Brady might have missed the people in the courts building, he always can depend on Scout, a 4-year-old labradoodle.
“Scout came from Patriot Paws, which trains and places dogs with individuals, especially military veterans who have emotional or physical needs,” says Wilson. “We had put in an application and got a call in 2018 from them letting us know they had a young labradoodle who would be a better fit for a facility due to some separation anxiety. You could almost hear the tires squealing as one our staffers left immediately to go get Scout.”
He now lives with Allyson Kucera and Dan Monte, both assistant criminal attorneys in the office. Scout and Brady were introduced gradually to make sure both dogs were comfortable, and they are now best friends. Scout also loves all the humans in the office, plus he interacts with the young visitors and loves to play fetch.
“The only people they’re not fond of are the window washers,” says Wilson.