Marsha Bavetta with new Drug Court service dog.
Marsha Bavetta with new Drug Court service dog.
A new service dog has taken the role of ensuring calm and emotional stability in the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court at only nine months of age.

General Mad Dog Mattis, named after Secretary of Defense James Mattis and known as Max around the court, is an 80-pound goldendoodle brought in by Marsha Bavetta. He is being trained to be an in-house service dog at the  Drug Court.

Bavetta, a probation agent and former Philadelphia Police investigator, said Max is already proving his worth.

“He freely roams our offices when he is here and brings a level of comfort to what can easily be a tense atmosphere for some people,” Bavetta said. “We have had no complaints and our participants often ask where he is on days I don’t bring him in.”

Max has completed his puppy training and is now entering weekly classes for the next two to three months to be a certified service dog.

Marcus Ellis, Drug Court coordinator, said he sees the impact Max has every day he comes into the office.

He told the story of a lady who came in “very distraught” after receiving some troubling news about the health of a family member.

“Everyone could tell she was upset and Max just went over and sat down and looked at her,” Ellis said. “Eventually she started scratching his head and calmed down and we could get her the help she needed.”

Ellis and Bavetta have already seen Max help in serious situations from the distraught woman to a Drug Court participant with a shy bladder when it came to drug testing.

“He has not completed his training but he seems to have what it takes,” Bavetta said.

Goldendoodles are an ideal breed for service dogs because they are intelligent, do not shed and can vary in height and weight based on the size of the parent dogs.

Bavetta originally got the idea when she heard one of her friends who lives outside Chicago was using goldendoodle service dogs to work with autistic children.

She has brought Max into the Drug Court program at her own expense.

“We have not invested a dime into Max because we have not figured out how to legally compensate Marsha, but we hope to get that figured out soon,” Ellis said.

Bavetta and Ellis agree that Max is good for their participants and offers a boost to staff moral.

She is not aware of other Drug Courts in the state which implement service dogs but noted that she has gotten many inquiries from across the state. She has introduced Max to a variety of directors and coordinators and received positive responses.