MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office has a new employee who is trained specifically to help victims of crime as they go through the court system.
The employee – has four paws and his name is Fiji!
When victims of crime come in, they will soon have Fiji for them to get to know and see each time they come to the office. Fiji will even be able to join them in the courtroom.
“When they take the stand to testify, Fiji will be able to sit on their feet and be underneath the witness stand with them as a source of comfort for them. Because as we all know oftentimes it’s very difficult to get up in front of a courtroom full of people and testify,” said Ashley Rich, the Mobile County District Attorney.
The district attorney’s office has been working on getting a facility dog for nearly two years. Fiji is a service dog and is trained to do assistive tasks, grounding tasks, and some social tasks. His assistive tasks are geared towards victims of trauma.
“He can lay across your lap, put his head on your knee, and maintain that position for indefinite periods of time until he’s released. He can lay across your feet, he can apply really deep pressure is the generic term for it that has a calming effect,” said Chris McDonough, Fiji’s handler, and a Mobile County Assistant District Attorney.
The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office was chosen to receive Fiji, at no cost through a grant-funded process, by the Guide Dogs of America – Tender Loving Canines.
“This dog was specifically picked after they came and visited our facility, they visited our team. They decided what dog they thought would be best suited for us. We are just honored,” said Rich.
Fiji will soon be helping victims of crime go through the court process. He was trained by people who have been on the opposite side of the court process, prisoners.
“I think it does sort of complete the circle here. We are trying to prosecute crimes on behalf of victims. Now we have a dog that is going to help us do that, that was trained by people who have offended,” said McDonough.
McDonough has been training with Fiji since April, after meeting him in California, where Fiji was trained behind bars.
McDonough is excited to see him in action.
“Once you see what the dogs do and the impact they have. It’s really apparent why it’s so important. It goes from a very somber very serious environment to where you can just feel the air come back into the room for a lack of a better way to describe it. And it’s remarkable what the presence of the dog does,” said McDonough.
Fiji is still acclimating to the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office, his handler says he may be able to start helping victims in 6 months.