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Comfort canine joins Lucas County prosecutor's office

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    Comfort dog Ezra, with Lutheran Church Charities' K-9 Outreach Ministry, is introduced at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office comfort dog at the Lucas County Courthouse.

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    Dawn Bonfiglio, left, a legal secretary at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, pets comfort dog Ezra, as Morgan Coulter handles the dog.

    THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
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  • CTY-COMFORT08

    Comfort dog Ezra, with Lutheran Church Charities' K-9 Outreach Ministry, is introduced at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
    Buy This Image

  • CTY-COMFORT08-1

    Prosecutor Julia Bates and comfort dog Ezra.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
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    Handlers Morgan Coulter, left, and Kathryn Breier sit with comfort dog Ezra.

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Dawn Bonfiglio, left, a legal secretary at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, pets comfort dog Ezra, as Morgan Coulter handles the dog.

THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Lucas County Common Pleas Court may soon need to install a doggy door.

On Thursday, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates introduced Ezra, the court's new comfort dog. The 1-year-old golden retriever is joining the prosecutor's office to help victims and witnesses cope while telling their stories.

"I have wanted to get an office dog for the longest time," Ms. Bates said. "The problem is you have to have someone willing to take care of the dog and willing to take it home, to the vet, and clean up the dog's business. I didn't have anybody who wanted to do that."

VIDEO: Julia Bates talks about the new comfort dog, Ezra

Ezra is the first dog from Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) to be placed in a court. Trinity Lutheran Church's Nancy Borders, along with her husband, take care of the dog. LCC foots the bill for all expenses.

LCC is based out of Northbrook, Ill., and works with churches throughout the U.S.

Trinity has its own comfort dog, and Ms. Bates brought it in to show the rest of the staff the benefits of having a four-legged friend around the office. It just so happened to be put to work that day when the children who were chained and sexually abused by Timothy and Esten Ciboro were having trouble reliving their experiences while talking to prosecutors.

"We have two young kids who were traumatized, kidnapped, and chained, and now they have to come to the prosecutor's office and tell us what happened," Ms. Bates said. "They're scared to death, the first child was crying. She starts petting the dog, the tears start to dry up, and she started to smile. She was able to get the words out and tell what happened to her. "

Ezra received about 2,000 hours of training prior to being placed, and started when he was just a couple months old. Dogs in the program live with their trainers and rotate to get used to multiple handlers.

While working, the canine will have three handlers, including Lucas County Deputy Sheriff Gary Condon.

Ms. Borders said Ezra will play ball after hours, or take long walks and get massages to decompress.

"If Ezra is in court for a stressful situation, these dogs actually absorb that stress, so they need a release," Ms. Borders said. "It's awesome to see how they absorb the stress and then release it. That's our main purpose; take the stress from the individual who's hurting and give it to the dog for a while. They get rid of it a lot easier."

Contact Jay Skebba at jskebba@theblade.com, 419-376-9414, or on Twitter @JaySkebbaBlade.

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