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(Enlarge) Howard County Clerk of the Circuit Court Margaret Rappaport often comforts young children caught up in the middle of their parents' divorce cases by introducing them to Shayna Madel, her teacup Yorkshire terrier. Rappaport keeps the dog with her at the court during her workday. (Photo by Kitty Charlton)

When a child is crying at the county courthouse because her parents are getting divorced or are involved in a nasty custody dispute, Margaret Rappaport has the perfect remedy -- a miniature dog named Shayna.

Rappaport, clerk of the Howard County Circuit Court, said she often sees children in the Ellicott City courthouse crying for one reason or another. When she does, she gently leads the child into her office and shows the child her 4-year-old, three-pound, teacup Yorkshire terrier, Shayna Madel.

"When they see Shayna in the office their disposition changes," Rappaport said. "They sit on the floor and play with her."

Rappaport has been clerk of the Circuit Court since 1990. Shayna Madel (Hebrew for "pretty girl") has been at her side for the past four years, coming to work with her most days and in the process becoming a miniature institution at the Howard County Circuit Court.

People from all over the courthouse, including at least one judge, regularly come in to see her dog, Rappaport said.

Her administrative assistant, Gisele Booth, agreed.

"It's not like 'Hi, Gisele, how are you doing?' " Booth said. "It's just, 'Where's Shayna?' "

Rappaport said Shayna reminds her of her late husband, former Howard County Police Chief Paul Rappaport, who gave his wife the dog shortly before he died in 2005.

"Since my husband passed away, she's been at my side," she said.

Center of the action

As clerk of the court, Rappaport oversees an office that is responsible for record-keeping, filing and scheduling of county criminal and civil matters, including divorces, child support and juvenile cases. The office also records land deeds and mortgage transactions.

Rappaport also has the responsibility of swearing in police officers, the Howard County Board of Education, the state's attorney and county judges.

If there is an official Howard County swearing-in, Shayna has likely been to it.

"She's with me constantly and she doesn't bark," Rappaport said.

Rappaport carries Shayna with her in a special purse for dogs that she bought at a pet store. At work, the dog sits in the purse and watches her all day.

When Shayna needs to relieve herself, Rappaport has an absorbent pad in her office, or she takes the dog out of the courthouse.

'Kind of cute'

Howard County Board of Education member Allen Dyer said he heard about Rappaport's dog when he was sworn in to the school board on Dec. 1.

"I just thought that was kind of cute," he said.

Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for Howard County State's Attorney's Office, said the dog seems to be a morale booster at the courthouse.

"Just like there are instances of nursing homes and hospitals allowing pets in the work place, I think pets can reduce employee stress and blood pressure and maybe even impact morale," he said.

Rappaport has always been a dog person. She had a dog growing up and she and her husband had a dog for years.

When that dog drowned in her swimming pool, she swore she would never get a new one. A few years ago, however, her husband asked her what she would do if she got a new dog. Shortly thereafter, he bought her Shayna as a Christmas present.

It was love at first sight and Rappaport has kept Shayna with her constantly ever since.

"She brings much comfort to me," she said. "She's a perfect dog."


user comments (1)


user izzywizzy says...

Shayna is adorable. As a owner of two Yorkshire girls; Isabelle and Daisy the everyday joy they bring to our lives and others is wonderful. I am so happy she brings you such comfort and may she for a very long time. I think she was not only a blessing from god and your husband but also for others. Thank you for share her with the rest of us .


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