Nebraska judge’s dog helps calm nerves in juvenile courtroom

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(KETV/CNN) — Finnegan Johnson is not exactly an attorney, but he serves as “counsel” in the Nebraska courtroon of Doug Johnson.

Finnegan is Johnson’s four-legged friend who is altering the atmosphere in the Douglas County juvenile courtroom.

Johnson’s court deals with young people going through life-changing crises and the stress is easy to see on the adults trying to help.

Stress can be a constant in court, so enter Finnegan, who comes with Johnson to work every day.

“Day one, he walks in, everybody’s blood pressure goes down and the kids love him,” he said. “It was a game changer.”

Finnegan lies under the judge’s bench until it’s time to work.

Johnson calls his court “a court of second chances” and Finnegan helps make that happen. The dog helps Johnson reconnect kids and their parents before it’s too late.

“The therapist will tell you you don’t have to be a perfect parent. If you’re an adequate parent, a reasonable parent, that child will thrive.”

And this badge-wearing fixture of the county courthouse works cheap. “I thought maybe we might be able to get him minimum wage if he had the ID,” he joked. “So far, no luck.”

Scratch Finnegan’s ears, give him a treat or two, and he’s good to go — good for the people appearing in Johnson’s court and for the judge himself.

“Sometimes, when I’m listening to some really tough testimony, I’m just petting him myself, calming down.

“I go with Will Rogers, who said ‘If dogs don’t go to heaven, I want to go where they go.'”

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