Meet MacDougal, Assistance Dog Brings Ease And Comfort To Children

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Community: Juliette’s House
By Olive Gallagher, Contributing Writer

As a Labrador puppy, MacDougal “Mac,” was just as adorable and loveable as any four-legged newborn could be. But along with his placid, calm, loveable nature, he also possessed qualities that made him destined for a special and purpose-driven future as the Courthouse Facility Dog at Juliette’s House in McMinnville.

Julie Siepmann, LCSW, the Clinical Services Director and Lead Forensic Interviewer at Juliette’s House, was first encouraged in 2018 to consider a dog for the facility by a colleague at the Yamhill County Office of Crime Victim Services. These amazing dogs initially cost between $5,000 and $10,000, and by the time they’re mature and trained, are valued between $25,000 and $50,000. The animals — usually Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and Labrador-retriever mixes — are donated to nonprofits or individuals who qualify. After exploring and filling out applications for a number of assistance dog organizations, Julie acquired Mac from Assistance Dogs Northwest, an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International and located on Bainbridge Island, Washington. He had already completed extensive training and had mastered 90 commands, allowing him to assist in many tasks, ranging from opening doors to turning lights on and off.

Julie and Mac began team training during which Julie spent half the week working with MacDougal and the other half in didactic studies, focusing on aspects like proper handling, medical care, animal behavior, signs of stress and more. Putting in 40-hour work weeks, Julie spent the first week on Bainbridge Island and the second one on site at Juliette’s House, going through “sample” workday situations with sample children role playing with Mac.

Mac is present from the very first moment the child meets Julie and a medical provider. He remains with Julie, starting in the waiting area when they arrive and continuing throughout the evaluation at Juliette’s House, including the medical exam and forensic interview — the latter is recorded and used in legal proceedings. A legitimate part of the team, Mac is gentle and slow moving, with a quiet demeanor that helps children become relaxed and emotionally regulated in his presence.

Assistance Dog MacDougal helps a child find health and well being

The impact of dogs like Mac on the children being assisted has been researched and measured with biofeedback. Results show just having him sitting or lying next to the children lowers their blood pressure, slows their heart rates and respiration, reduces anxiety and helps them remain regulated during their interviews or conversations with the professionals in court or at Juliette’s House. Mac offers an easy way into conversations at the beginning with a child, elucidating responses such as, “I think he likes me!” or “I want to take him home.” And since Julie’s goal is to make a child comfortable and willing to talk, Mac’s presence adds to the calm and comfort in the room to help open up those conversations. One might think Mac is too placid, even boring at times. That’s part of his skill in his job. His silence speaks volumes and helps make little miracles occur every day at Juliette’s House.

Juliette’s House is located at 1075 S.W. Cedarwood Avenue, McMinnville. For more information, please call 503-435-1550 or visit