“Many of us are aware of, and have had contact with various types of therapy dogs, in places that range from the workplace to our public transportation systems. But we may not be aware of the growing use and integration into the legal system of therapeutic “comfort dogs” or therapy dogs in several aspects of criminal proceedings, including victim-offender mediation. Ken Strutin lays the groundwork for analysis of how “dog therapy” techniques are well suited to this type of mediation by discussing the psychological dynamics of victim-offender mediation, including how the mediator must confront and deal with them. Of special interest and importance is the changing role of the mediator, who is often called upon to wear different hats. Of importance in this article are the jobs of “therapist” and “magician.” Strutin describes the “therapist” role as it focuses on the therapeutic effect that a dog’s presence will have on victim-offender mediation, namely the psychological benefits for the participants. He explores the “magician” role through a discussion of how the mediator will use the dog’s presence to aid in the process of discussing and resolving conflict, with both parties’ emotional needs receiving equal attention. And finally, Strutin discusses the training required by mediators who wish to employ therapy dogs in their practice. These new “mediator-handlers,” as these types of mediators are known, will have a challenging task in specializing in this type of mediation, but one that can be truly rewarding.” The research and commentary provided here are seminal to understanding how dogs are engaged in increasingly critical roles in the lives of people in many facets of social and legal interaction with critical implications for all involved.
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