by NICOLE MCPHEETERS
Jordy the CASA dog is something of a local celebrity. When the golden retriever celebrated his fifth birthday in October, it was a press-worthy event. But Jordy spends most days out of the spotlight, doing vital work at the Monroe County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) office, 201 N. Morton St.
Jordy is not a service, emotional support, or therapy dog. He’s a facility dog, trained through the Courthouse Facility Dog Program (CFDP). He accompanies children to courthouse proceedings, forensic interviews, and medical examinations.
In 2016, Jordy graduated from the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), an elite training program accredited by Assistance Dogs International. There, he learned how to stay passive in high-stress situations, which assures he won’t disrupt legal proceedings. To date, Jordy has been in contact with more than 700 children, almost 300 of whom he’s assisted in court proceedings.
“Our goal is to make the process more humane so the youth can say what they need to say while minimizing the potential trauma,” says Jordy’s handler and CFDP manager Tia Arthur. “By petting Jordy, they experience psychological effects that allow them to feel more calm and balanced.”
Arthur recalls a time Jordy’s job played out exactly as intended.
“We were visiting the youth shelter, Jordy gave a ‘hug’ to a teenage girl, and she immediately began to cry,” Arthur recalls. “She was so surprised by her own reaction, but it became a teaching moment. We all have feelings and it’s okay to be vulnerable among our peers.”
Jordy isn’t only a courtroom dog. He visits Susie’s Place, a child advocacy center that conducts forensic interviews and medical exams for children and assists in crisis scenarios. He also visits the Monroe County Services Bureau.
“The kids teach him new tricks and he will lie on the ground with every kid lying around him, petting him,” Arthur says. “It’s probably his favorite thing to do. He gets so excited when we walk in the door.”
Monroe County is lucky to have a facility dog, which can cost more than $30,000 after training. The ICAN program, however, asked for far less—closer to $1,600. CASA was able to adopt Jordy thanks to a generous donor from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.
“He really is the community’s dog,” Arthur says.