COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — If they could talk, the Court Case Dogs might tell harrowing tales.
Pippa, a steely, blue-gray pit bull rescued from the underworld of dogfighting in Chicago, could explain the scars on her face.
Claus the poodle could share stories about living with a hoarder — and the day the hoarder's house burned down.
The pooches are part of a program called Court Case Dogs because that's what, in part, they are. Authorities seized the dogs as part of criminal investigations. Held as evidence, they would have languished at the pound while criminal cases played out in court.
In the past, most of the dogs often were euthanized at the end of the case. But Court Case Dogs — managed by Safe Humane Chicago — now works to rescue them.
As program director Cynthia Bathurst is known to say, the Court Case Dogs have “done the time, but not the crime.”
On Sunday, a pianist and the proud owner of Claus the poodle will perform Chopin in concert to celebrate the bond between dog and man, and raise money to support second chances for more Court Case Dogs.
The program was conceived in 2010 after the biggest dogfighting bust in U.S. history. As part of a multistate raid, federal authorities seized hundreds of dogs used in blood sport.
Many ended up in Chicago, where dog lovers were determined to give them a second chance.
Animal welfare groups came together, and Court Case Dogs was born.
Today, the program is managed by Safe Humane Chicago, which determines each dog’s adoptability, socializes and “trains them to be irresistible family companions," according to the website.
As of the end of January, the program had rescued 461 dogs, placing 393 in adoptive homes. The remaining Court Case Dogs are at rescues, foster homes or in training.
Court Case Dog adopters are among the program’s biggest fans.
"Pit bulls get a terrible rap; they are wonderful dogs," said Doug Wing, who adopted Pippa in 2011. "They fight because they want to please their owners. They deserve a real life."
The face of the program is definitely the pit bull, but Court Case Dogs come in all shapes and sizes.
Ira Goodkin, a retired Oak Park resident and accomplished pianist, will perform selections from Chopin’s Etudes at a concert Sunday to raise money for the cause.
“Claus isn’t coming to the concert,” he said of the curly-haired white poodle almost always by his side.
Goodkin and his wife, Marie, adopted Claus in 2013 after a fire ripped through the home of a hoarder.
More than 20 dogs were trapped inside at the time, Bathurst said. Claus, one of eight that survived, was rescued by firefighters and neighbors.
“Those dogs had been through a species of hell,” said Goodkin.
Claus, who still has respiratory issues possibly related to the fire, doesn’t act like a traumatized animal.
“I call him the zen dog,” Goodkin said. While Claus won't be present for the performance, he is its inspiration.
"Our adopters are huge supporters," said Bathurst, grateful for Goodkin's help. "We see this as an extended family and a community issue."
The concert, hosted by Safe Humane Chicago and PianoForte Foundation, will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at PianoForte, 1335 S. Michigan Ave., with a reception afterward. The suggested donation is $75.