WILLIAMSPORT – When Jedi trots along the halls of Lycoming County’s courthouse he can’t get far before young and old kneel down to stroke his fur and let him lick their hand.
It’s been just two years since Jedi became the courthouse facility dog and many now can’t imagine the building without him.
When Jerri Rook, secretary to county Judge Joy McCoy and Jedi’s handler, first met her new canine friend she thought he didn’t like her. His subdued nature, at first, made her think something was wrong. But Jedi is bread to be a calm and mellow presence in the courthouse, to provide a soft touch without judgement or pain.
“He has had such an impact on the victims in the courthouse,” Rook said. “Just to see a child that is here for reasons that are upsetting – and then when he walks in the room they are nothing but smiles and giggling and petting him.”
Jedi sleeps in one of a few beds in Rook’s office while she works. But when there are children in the courthouse playroom, juvenile hearings or painful trial testimonies, the pair are often there to help. Jedi is trained to lay at the feet of victims who need his support, letting them touch and pet him while they give their testimony.
“When he’s not with me, I feel like I’m missing a piece, almost like an extra limb. He’s a part of me,” Rook said.
When he isn’t helping victims, Jedi loves to go for walks around the courthouse and visit all his favorite staff members. He is always met with smiles and love, Rook said. “I can’t get anywhere fast,” she said. But she doesn’t mind.
After working at the courthouse for eight years without Jedi, Rook now can’t imagine life without him. He works with her during the day and then goes home with her at night.
“He’s here for good,” Rook said. Or for at least the next 10 years, she added. McCoy’s term will be up then and booth Rook and Jedi will also be ready to retire. But that doesn’t mean the facility dog position has to go away.
Rook said she would work hard to get a facility dog in every courthouse in Pennsylvania.
“Hopefully someone else will come along to take the baton and continue this program, because it’s been amazing,” Rook said.
Jedi’s birthday is in December and Rook is holding a celebration at the courthouse on Dec. 18. The public is invited to join.