Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the poodle is a therapy dog, not a service dog.
Starting Aug. 10, Cole County children who are dealing with abuse or neglect will have a new friend to help them.
Olive, a poodle that has been trained as a therapy dog, will be in Judge Jon Beetem's courtroom in Jefferson City for the children's docket once a month.
The dog was the idea of Lisa Bax, office manager for the law firm of Bartimus, Frickleton & Robertson, who had seen Brandon McMillan's TV program "Lucky Dog" on CBS, which airs Saturday mornings.
Bax also is an advocate with Capital City Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, which connects children in the legal system who have been abused, neglected or found in unstable homes with adult advocates to represent them.
"I begged," she said. "I begged. I had seen the program and left him the message about how the kids needed something like this."
"I had been holding (Olive) for a while because I thought she'd be good in a couple of places, but when I heard from Lisa, my heart was touched. And I knew this is where she belongs," he said.
McMillan went to Bax's home in Taos to film a segment on Olive, which will air at a later date.
Bax said there are 150 children currently in the Cole County court system who could be helped by Olive.
"She'll stay here with me, but we could take her to other places than just the courtroom if the children need it," Bax said.
McMillan, an animal trainer in Los Angeles, said his mission is rescuing untrained dogs at neighborhood animal shelters. He takes them to his training facility, Lucky Dog Ranch, and works to make the dogs ready for new homes.
"The term therapy dog and what they do has been popular for the last 10-15 years, but actually, we've had therapy animals for thousands of years," he said. "They were used in various ways to help humans, and over the years, we substituted pills and drugs to try and do what these animals can do. Many studies have shown that these animals have soothing and calming effects on children, especially those that tend to be shy and reclusive."
McMillan said many times therapy dogs will be Labradors or golden retrievers, but he thought Olive would be a good fit for this job.
"She's small, and children can hold her," he said. "Bred dogs are fine, but I find that dogs like Olive, who were on the streets are used to loud noises and other activity on the streets, are better therapy dogs. They tend to stay calmer when a child is crying or gets scared."
McMillan said when he got Olive she had a skin condition that needed to be addressed and had a litter of puppies, but she probably abandoned them soon after having them.
"My goal is to show that there are wonderful animals out there for adoption," he said. "I can't tell you how many times after a show airs we hear from shelters that they had several adoptions."