Legend is an average-looking Labrador retriever with an extraordinary job. He is a therapy dog used to comfort court witnesses and victims, including devastated children, as they recall traumatic events.
On a recent assignment, Legend sat in the witness box of a Bakersfield, Ca. courtroom, his nose in the lap of a child as she explained how her stepfather shot her mother in the head. The child was understandably nervous; she had not seen her stepfather since the night of the shooting. Legend spent over an hour with the child on the stand as she described details surrounding that horrific event.
Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Green, a criminal prosecutor and Legend’s owner, works to make neighborhoods safer by keeping criminals off the street. Sometimes this requires the testimony of children. Child witnesses are glad to have a gentle, intuitive pooch stay near during a difficult time. For these children, Legend is a hero. A hero that brings relief and healing for vulnerable children who have undergone experiences so appalling they should never have lived through them, let alone be asked to explain them again to a jury. Legend’s comfort for children comes at a critical time. This calm creature soothes children in the witness box as they recount memories of rape, shootings and assault. To prevent swaying jurors’ opinions of the witness or their testimony, Legend is trained to stay hidden, and usually does.
Legend has always had a tender soul. Green initially took Legend as a puppy to train him as a guide dog. But when Legend, raised by Green’s family in a rural setting, failed a stressful performance examination on a busy Los Angeles street, a new purpose at court emerged. Legend was already a beloved court visitor when he was rejected as a guide dog – he spent days lying around Green’s office. Legend had already been present for most of Green’s time working with child molestation victims and was a natural fit because his calm nature had a soothing effect on children.
Months later, after many tests and a performance exam, Legend was certified as a comfort dog. Now, Green brings Legend to work with him almost every day. For his courthouse job, Legend was taught to take commands from far away without making eye contact with the handler, maintain positions for long periods of time and respond to witnesses’ emotional needs. Legend has a knack for these things. And it is for these reasons and more, that Rotarian John Fallgatter of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield West made Legend a RI Paul Harris Fellow.
Legend’s popularity has earned him his own Facebook page. Green and his wife are preparing to add another trainer and more dogs to the witness comfort program. Once the training is formalized, Green plans to expand the program to provide nuzzling solace for more child witnesses.
*Submitted by Rotarian Jacquelyn S. Jans as reported by Bakersfield Life Magazine, July 2015.
** Photos include Legend receiving his PH certificate, pin and medallion (which personally belonged to John Fallgatter when he was made a PH); along with RC of West President Roger Griess, Rotarian Jacquelyn S. Jans, Deputy Dist. Attorney Ken Green, Faith Green and Rotarian John Fallgatter.