Score one for the DA dog

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How many times have you looked deep into the eyes of a canine friend and wondered what’s really going on inside there.

The dogs don’t talk – not really – but what is wonderful about them is that they don’t have to.

They communicate love without the need for “I love you” which means they never fall to the human foible of giving one out as a plea for receiving one in return. They are loyal in ways that human beings could never be loyal, and they are true in all ways to their companions. If only we could be as good at all of this. In some ways it appears that the dogs, indeed, are better at being human, better at living the essence of what we believe to be humanity, than those of us whose species bears its name from the same root.

In this newspaper we have already introduced readers to a particularly laudable member of the canine family who lives locally among us. Duval, the golden retriever and Lab mix who wears the insignia of the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney’s Office, is now a known entity.

Duval has half-dollar sized eyes that look back at you long and deep, and fur that is silky soft. But most of all he has this personality that amplifies itself. There is arrogance in his approach that presumes everyone in the world wishes to pet him, to cuddle and to coddle him, and in this Duval is not entirely incorrect.

His job is to help children adjust to the uncomfortable task of telling things grownups have told them shouldn’t be told, among other things.

The violence that tears homes apart perpetrated, of course, only behind closed doors, even if directed only at a spouse and not to the children themselves; the touch of a relative or family friend that steals innocence and sows seeds deep within the psyche of shame and guilt, confusion and betrayal; the abusive gestures and veiled threats that make home into hell for children and everyone else present, these are all among the secrets. And it’s hard enough to be a kid without some grownups you don’t even know trying to wrench these things out of you, no matter how friendly and nice they are.

Enter Duval, who with the wag of a tail or the cocking of an ear can grab the child’s attention, and help him or her latch on to the idea that not everyone in the room is scary and that you have a friend it’s OK to talk. The child can even tell the secrets to Duval himself.

Along with his human partner, investigator Tommy Beeson, Duval has for months been proving his stuff and garnering a reputation around the courthouse.

Well last week Duval made history, as the first prosecution dog ever to do his stuff in a courtroom, while a judge was sitting, during a full-blown proceeding.

The matter before the court was confidential, something involving a child, a cherubic young girl who was required to tell the judge some things that were personal to her family, and that is all anyone really needs to know. These things are hard, and the little girl needed a friend for sure, and right there in the courtroom there was Duval, laying at her feet, looking up from time to time, giving encouragement, letting the little girl know it was okay to tell the truth, that it’s OK to talk about what goes on at home.

They had already become friends, during interviews at the District Attorney’s office. So much so that the child, who is artistically inclined, was drawing the most beautiful sketch of Duval on a piece of paper in the courtroom hallway.

“Such a peaceful, docile dog,” Judge Johnny Walker later commented. “I think he gave some comfort”

The dog in the courtroom, the judge noted, caused no disruption. The judge will be happy to have Duval back in his court anytime.

Other people involved with the case talked about how wonderful Duval was, and after talking to all of them it became pretty clear that on this one day, it was good for justice to have gone to the dogs.