Fred, 200-pound therapy dog, comforts victims' families during murder trial

Fred's brought a sense of calm to a community that needed it after five teenagers were killed in October 2016.


If comfort had a mascot, it would probably be a 200-pound English mastiff named Fred.

"You can't measure the good he has done," said Fred's owner, Brian Carten.

The former Westminster show dog has spent all four years of his life by Carten's side.

But he's spent the past 2 1/2 years at Harwood Union High School.

"It’s nice to just see him walk into a stressful situation and watch him take it down a few levels," said Carten.

Fred is a therapy dog, certified through Therapy Dogs of Vermont.

"Fred does a phenomenal job," said Carten, "He doesn't have to do anything but be himself."

Carten said Fred's brought a sense of calm to a community that needed it after teenagers Mary Harris, Cyrus Zschau, Liam Hale, Eli Brookens and Janie Chase Cozzi were killed in October 2016.

They were on their way home from a concert in South Burlington when their car was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver.

"Harwood (Union High School) did a survey and they asked the kids what worked best for them out of the different types of therapy that they had available for the kids after the incident. I believe it was 89 percent (of the students) picked the (therapy) dogs," said Carten.

The students gave Fred two pins that he proudly wears on his collar.

One reads, "Harwood Union High School," and the other has a heart with the word, "Loved," written inside.

Fred's been taking a break from school these past couple of weeks, taking on a new job at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington.

"I believe this is the first dog in a courtroom setting in the state," said Carten.

Fred is attending the trial of Steven Bourgoin, the man accused of killing the five teens in the crash.

"The court system rolled out the red carpet for us," said Carten.

Fred's presence was requested by the families of the victims.

Over the past two weeks, he's found a new home in the back of the courtroom waiting to be petted by anyone who needs him.

"For me, to be on this end of the leash and watch the transformation that actually does take place when (people pet Fred) is pretty gratifying," said Carten.