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South Williamsport, PA
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County Hall Corner: Dog Days

No, the County Courthouse has not gone to the dogs, but it does have a dog, singular. His name is Jedi, and his title is Lycoming County Courthouse Facility Dog. Assigned to the Common Pleas Court of Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy, Jedi is the fulfillment of a two-year dream of Judge McCoy and her Executive

No, the County Courthouse has not gone to the dogs, but it does have a dog, singular. His name is Jedi, and his title is Lycoming County Courthouse Facility Dog. Assigned to the Common Pleas Court of Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy, Jedi is the fulfillment of a two-year dream of Judge McCoy and her Executive Secretary Jerri Rook. Hearing of a program through an organization called Canine Companions for Independence in 2016, they began the process that would eventually culminate in securing a valuable and needed asset to Family Court.

Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence® is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and also giving ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. They train various types of assistance dogs in their program. Jedi is what is known as a facility dog, who is specially trained to work with a facilitator for clients with special needs in a visitation, education, criminal justice, or health care setting.

Jedi, a Labrador/Golden cross, was born on December 18, 2015, and for the first year and half of his life, he was cared for by a volunteer puppy raiser in basic obedience training, socialization, and care. He then went through a special six-month program with professional trainers at Canine Companions to learn forty advanced commands. After this point, Jerri Rook, a dog owner herself, went through an intense two-week Team Training program at Canine Companion’s Northeast Training Center at Medford, NY, to learn how to use Jedi’s commands and properly care for him. Since February 20th of this year, Jedi has lived with Jerri and her Rottweiler “Boo” as one big happy family. And when Jerri Rook goes to work for Judge McCoy, she has Jedi in tow.

Though Judge, Jerri, and Jedi have only worked together for little over a month, the presence of the lovable Lab has already made a difference in Courtroom 5 at the Lycoming County Courthouse. Judge McCoy serves as Family Court Judge, which means she must deal with matters of divorce, child custody, child support, and protection from abuse. All judges get to see the ugly underbelly of society, but Judge McCoy sees the heartbreaking part of it — the suffering of children. Here is where Jedi comes to the rescue.

Jedi, who also goes by the name of Jedster, is a big adorable Lab — who even a person who is not crazy about dogs (such as me) finds quite lovable. At the reception held for Jedi held on Wednesday, March 28th, Judge McCoy shared a story about a very young girl who the judge had to question in the course of a hearing. The girl sat on the floor next to Jedi, and calmly listened and answered the judge’s questions while rubbing the dog’s ears the entire time.

Lord willing, Jedi will be a fixture at the Courthouse for the next ten years, and perhaps even longer. It is obvious that the courthouse personnel have already taken to the canine court companion. As Jerri takes him for noontime walks, the general populace will also have opportunities to make their acquaintance with the charms of this lovable Lab.

Currently, the cost of Jedi’s support is being covered by the county’s Children and Youth Department, and donations would be gladly appreciated. A gift in memory of the family dog would be a great tribute and be a blessing to many hurting children. Their address is Lycoming County Children and Youth Services, Sharwell Building, 200 East Street, Williamsport, PA 17701, tel: 570-326-7895, email: services@joinder.org. And for those who like social media, you can follow Jedi on Facebook at Lycoming County Courthouse Facility Canine Jedi.

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