Robert “Bob” Sigillito, M.D., is the St. Tammany Chief Deputy Coroner and the handler of Big Lou, an emotional support therapy dog. The coroner’s office motto is “Science, Service, Compassion” and this *man and K9* team stand by that sentiment. They are registered with the organization Pet Partners; who trained and registered Big Lou as a therapy dog and Bob as a handler. Pet Partner’s mission is to improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond. Big Lou achieved a perfect score on a test which evaluated his temperament and reactions when exposed to high stress environments.
In 2018 Bob and his wife Rhonda were looking for a new family pet and found Big Lou at the Baton Rouge Animal Shelter when he was about 6 months old. They believe he is a full breed Italian Mastiff. He weighs about 135 pounds and is 4 years old now. After taking Big Lou home, the Sigillito family found that his personality was not typical of this courageous and dignified working class breed, often put to work as guard dogs. He is motivated to please and is a gentle giant with a comforting presence. They soon felt a calling to share him with others and Big Lou never met a stranger! He was socialized at Mardi Gras parades and other outdoor events. A few years later Bob had the idea to share Big Lou’s gifts by putting him in service to others. Big Lou now works as a facility dog with Bob at the Coroner’s office and comforts and brings smiles to the faces of employees and visitors alike. Big Lou has also begun working with other social service agencies in St. Tammany including STARC and the Children’s Advocacy Center. “Big Lou can recognize someone who is crying or upset and will lie down by them or lean on them in a very gentle way,” Sigillito said. Big Lou was also registered as a “Facilities Dog” which was approved by the Louisiana Legislature, to provide emotional support in many settings without causing a distraction. The 22nd Judicial District Court is considering using Big Lou to comfort young victims and witnesses who must testify in court, sometimes before their abusers. Big Lou is available for visits to schools, hospitals, senior living communities and special needs and mental health facilities and more. If interested, please contact the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.