RIVERSIDE, California — After being starved and shackled for months, 13 children watched as the parents who tortured them were sentenced to life in prison. The Turpin children appeared bravely in court. But, they were not alone. An extra paw was brought in to help.
K-9 Raider II helped the kids, who now range in age from two to 29, throughout the lengthy criminal proceedings. For the first time, the Riverside Superior Court brought a support dog to trial. Investigators and prosecutors reportedly welcomed the idea.
"We met the Turpin children from the start and were welcomed with open arms by them," a Facebook Page set up to represent the beloved K-9 said in a statement. "They treated me with such love and affection every time we met. I wish them all strength and wellness and hope to visit with them again someday!"
David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to neglect and abuse after one of their daughters managed to escape and call 911. They will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
The yellow labrador, Raider, has been an inspiration on social media, with people praising his work -- helping the children deal with their trauma. And, he's not the only dog to help in that way. Therapy dogs have been working with children who have experienced trauma or abuse for quite some time.
Canines for Christ of Tampa has been working with children and facilities for at least 12 years. The ministry takes its therapy dogs to places that need them most, such as hospitals, places with special needs services, schools, police departments and fire departments.
"A service agency will call us and have us meet with a child and sometimes you will get children who won't talk, but will talk with the dog and will relax and get comfortable when the dogs show up," Chaplain Steve Kesler said.
The dogs have visited pediatric wards and can jump up on the hospital beds on command with the children for comfort. If the children are unable to move or do much, the dogs are just there to be petted and provide support, Kesler says.
He says even nurses who normally would frown upon dogs being in the beds with children will stop what they're doing to take photos because the experience is so beautiful.
The ministry showed up to help after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub and Parkland school shootings. It has helped with the aftermath of hurricanes and has even sent therapy and ministry members to Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The organization was founded by Chaplain Larry Randolph, who got the idea to use dogs to help people.
"He had to borrow a dog to start the ministry - hows that for faith," he added.
In the first seven years of Canines for Christ, the ministry had around 200 volunteers. It has now almost quadrupled with more than 900 volunteers. It operates in at least six countries.
The ministry doesn't care what religion anyone is and works with all children, Kesler says.
"We don't go in waving the bible - our deal is to go in and share the love - talk to them, find out if they have needs," Kesler said. "A lot of our chaplains are trying to help people, the dogs just help break the barriers. God loves us unconditionally and so do dogs, so it's easy."
One of their dogs, known as "Bruce" has especially excelled and has six national records. Therapy dogs are ranked and rewarded based on the number of facilities they visit, and Bruce has reached the "Distinguish" level, which means he had made at least 400 visits. This week, Kesler says Bruce will reach more than 12,000 visits.
Bruce is especially helpful in places like hospitals and pediatric wards because of his ability to do a series of six tricks in a matter of seconds to keep the patients entertained and comfortable.
To reach out to the ministry, click here for more information.
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