DENVER — An adorable dog is the newest member of the team at the Denver District Attorney's Office.
Bodhi, a 2-year-old golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix, recently joined the office to provide emotional support for victims, witnesses and their family members.
"The dogs do absorb emotion," said victim advocate Shannon McFate, who is Bodhi's handler. "We were working with a little girl yesterday, and even though he was just playing with her, he was checking in with me the whole time. He's feeling her emotions, her anxiety. So they have to take breaks, they can't do eight hours straight of this."
As a Canine Companion for Independence (CCI) certified facility dog, Bodhi will partner with McFate who has been with the office since 2006.
“The nature of our work is often traumatic,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. “Bodhi’s comforting presence helps people, and particularly children, survive their trauma and participate more openly and fully in the criminal justice process. Bodhi also supports our employees’ well-being with every tail wag, game of fetch and belly rub.”
Bodhi can perform more than 40 commands and also aids in the investigation of crimes, trial preparation and with courtroom testimony.
Judges will be asked whether they will allow Bodhi to lie at the feet of a person while he or she testifies to provide comfort. He will always be out of sight of the jury.
“The courtroom can be a stressful environment for many people, so putting participants at ease helps us get to the truth,” said Denver County Court Judge Kerri Lombardi. “I appreciate the calming and positive impact Bodhi will certainly have on victims, witnesses and those engaged in the process.”
For two years, Bodhi was housed and trained with an official CCI puppy raiser and was introduced to as many experiences and situations as possible to prepare him for his future.
That included trips to libraries, grocery stores, drug and department stores, restaurants of all kinds, amusement parks, sporting events, courthouses and medical appointments.
Last February, Bodhi was returned to the CCI Southwest Regional campus in California to continue training with a professional CCI trainer. Bodhi demonstrated a sound and appropriate temperament to graduate from the CCI program and was certified by CCI for work in public.
Bodhi also met the standards set by Assistance Dogs International prior to placement. He was among the 30% to 40% of dogs to complete that training successfully.
Since teaming with McFate, Bodhi has had continual on-the-job training at the Denver District Attorney’s Office, Denver County Courthouse, Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center and numerous other public environments to maintain his training and discipline.
When he’s not on the job, Bodhi enjoys playing with his two young human brothers and napping.
"When I get home, I do what's called a full release," McFate said. "I take off all of his stuff and I kind of excitedly say release. And he goes nuts. He's running around, checking on my boys, playing with them, he's wonderful with them."
He's expected to serve the DA's Office for eight to 10 years, and once his service is complete, he'll be adopted by McFate.
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