By Barbara Grasley
Meet Murphy, a one year old, 70-pound goldendoodle (a golden retriever mixed with a standard poodle) therapy dog, who is a new addition to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department.
Suzanne Clouchete, a detective in the Special Investigative Unit, learned about the Investigative Therapy Dog Program while meeting another detective from an agency that had received a dog and explained the program to her. Clouchete’s family had previously owned dogs, but decided to purchase Murphy at 8 weeks old, which was a Christmas gift to her family in December 2016. After New Year’s, she decided to get the program started, and she is the primary handler of Murphy.
Murphy attended Brevard County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Investigative Therapy Dog Course, which teaches the dog and the detective how to work as a team in meeting and talking to the victims of abuse. A therapy dog is given to the child, and when interaction occurs, the child becomes more relaxed, and it bridges the gap between law enforcement and the victim. The child is more inclined to talk, and being in a less stressful environment, will provide more information and details, helping the detective prepare a better case.
A team was put together following the shooting of the two Kissimmee Police Officers, Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter. Murphy was offered to be brought over, which was accepted. There was much excitement and joy when this huge teddy bear looking dog entered the room. “People were traumatized from this event, and seeing Murphy put a smile on their faces was amazing,” shares Detective Clouchete.
Murphy also provides therapy to detectives who suffer from secondary post-traumatic stress from dealing with cases of children who have been horribly physically and sexually abused.
He will be brought to the courthouse to sit with victims prior to deposition and court testimony, being utilized with adults as well. This will help relieve fears and make the judicial experience less painful. A therapy dog can remain in the witness room before testimony, giving a child the courage and strength to testify.
A recent case involved a victim who had been previously traumatized, and who had a difficult time speaking about her experience. Two days later, she was completely relieved, displaying less anxiety after sitting with Murphy for about 45 minutes. Murphy loves kids and is extremely gentle, releasing a positive impact on the child.
His work is not exclusively confined to a courtroom. The morale of the office in the Sheriff’s Department improves when he walks in the room. Sentiments like, “Awww, Murphy is here today,” echo throughout the building, and the excitement is overwhelming. Murphy’s popularity continues when he is greeted with enthusiasm at the mall, walks, and even the beach.
Detective Stephanie King, a bilingual detective in the Special Investigative Unit, who also works with Murphy, summed it up best by saying that his job is to put smiles on the faces of children and adults alike. I think that we can conclude that Murphy is doing an outstanding and amazing job at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.