Facility Dog Deano doesn’t have to raise his right hand—or, in his case, paw—and solemnly swear to tell the whole truth, but he is committed to helping humans who do have to do this.
This spring, Deano was placed with two Victim Witness Specialists for the Anoka County Attorney’s Office. In this role, the women meet with those who may have to take the witness stand in a courtroom for any type of felony case, ranging from theft to homicides. One explains that they “help victims and witnesses through the court process. It’s a scary time for a lot of people.” Whether it’s by meeting with victims or witnesses to give them a sense of what the court process will look like or by preparing them to testify, staff members help ease anxiety for these people. Now, Deano will assist them all in doing so as well.
Although this group had considered a facility dog for several years, one staff member who had experienced the positive impact of a facility dog at a previous job and also knew about Can Do Canines galvanized the idea. Yet, they did their due diligence, conducting research and talking to other county offices with facility dogs. One aspect that weighed in Can Do Canines’ favor was the prison program. One staff member shares, “We work with a lot of justice-involved people, and so having that full circle of helping with rehabilitation is a really key piece. That kind of tipped the balance of which way to go.”
Customized to specific needs, 3-year-old black Lab Deano can interrupt stimming behavior, “visit” (by lying his head on a lap) and “snuggle” on cue, and “go foot.” Modeling this last skill recently, he was lying on the feet of someone one of his handlers was talking with. She recalls, “As the victim got more upset and agitated, I could see [Deano] pushing his feet on the ground to push back against her feet to give a little extra pressure and remind her he was there.”
The employees see how Deano’s calming presence will continue to be of value to the people they serve. One says, “Going over everything that happened to them can be very difficult. They can get anxious and clam up. Having him there will help ease those nerves a little bit to help make them as comfortable as possible.”
Those at the attorney's office specifically want to reassure Can Do Canines volunteers who help raise dogs that become facility dogs like Deano that their work matters. “He's going to help so many people in this position, and it's really an amazing gift that they're a part of. He'll touch so many lives.”
Even the fact that he’s named “Deano” testifies to the work he’s doing. The couple who had the honor of naming him did so after the woman's late father, Dean, nicknamed "Deano." That Deano was a military medic and later drove a bus for children with special needs. His ultimate dream was to become an attorney, but he didn't have the financial means to do so. Knowing that Facility Dog Deano is now serving in this capacity, the daughter says, “I can't help but think my dad chose to come back to fulfill his dream in that exact way.”
With the verdict in about Deano’s important service, one employee says, “We are so thankful to Can Do Canines for taking a leap with us. They saw the vision that we had, worked with us to make it happen, and tweaked things as we went. We’re just super excited about him being here and the work he’s going to do.”
One person they serve says, “I don’t really want to come back to court, but I definitely want to come back to see him.” A staff member comments, “We understand that people don’t necessarily want to be coming to court and that it’s stressful, but if there’s something that they’re looking forward to, that’s amazing, right?”
Nobody—whether they’re a lawyer or not—can object to that!
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Raiser — The Niederloh Family
Name-A-Puppy Donor — Stu and Linda Wicklund