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City celebrates a special, furry friend

Emma, the first service and courthouse dog owned by Chaves County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), celebrates her 10th birthday with Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, left, who proclaimed Wednesday “Emma the Courthouse Dog Day” and Natasha Sing, courthouse dog coordinator. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Quite a few people gathered at CASA’s offices in the Sunwest Bank Building on North Main Street to help commemorate the day and eat some birthday cake along with CASA staff, including Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, executive director, not pictured.

Emma, who understands commands in English, Spanish and sign language, has helped thousands of children over the eight years she has been with the agency, Cloutier said. She said that Emma’s unique temperament enables her to sit for hours off a leash in witness stands alongside children testifying. She also assists children during supervised visits with adults, at forensic interviews with authorities or after crises. She played an important role, for example, in helping a Berrendo Middle School student who was traumatized and unable to speak for days after witnessing a school shooting in January 2014.

“All of her abilities are so incredible that we quickly learned that we needed more dogs, that people were asking for her more than she could be scheduled, so we actually now have five courthouse dogs, Emma, Ben, Zia, Hamlet and Henry Sage,” Cloutier said.

CASA is marking its 30th year in Roswell this month.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.