OLYMPIA — A 2-year-old black lab has been specially trained to comfort crime victims at the Thurston County courthouse.
Marshal’s job is to simply be there for victims, placing his head in their laps and allowing them to pet him.
He’s there to provide comfort, and to make the experience a little more bearable for victims of domestic violence and other traumatic crimes who need to speak about their experiences with attorneys.
Marshal was born in Australia, and then taken to Hawaii as a puppy, where he started training with Assistance Dogs of Hawaii.
The Prosecutor’s Office applied for a dog in November. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii provides Marshal, who is worth about $40,000, free of cost. He will officially start work in January.
Kim Carroll, senior victim advocate for the prosecutor’s office, and Wendy Ireland, Marshal’s caretaker, flew to Hawaii for their training.
Carroll and Ireland refer to themselves as Marshal’s two moms. While Marshal works with Carroll, he lives with Ireland, a legal support coordinator for the prosecutor’s office.
Marshal’s main command is “visit.” When Carroll gives him the order, he calmly walks over to a seated victim and places his head in their lap.
“It just feels good,” Carroll said. “There’s something very comforting about it.”
Marshal’s training was largely complete when he began working with Carroll and Ireland.
“We’re the ones who have a lot to learn,” Ireland said.
The two women said they are still “learning Marshal’s language,” adjusting the tone they use with him, and learning to think about environmental factors. An Assistance Dogs of Hawaii trainer has been on hand to help, and will visit every few months to check in.
Marshal has already been good for morale in the Prosecutor’s Office, Ireland said. When he’s not with Carroll, he sleeps on a large dog bed under Ireland’s desk. She said people often come by just to look at him.
Carroll and Ireland, who have worked for the prosecutor’s office for 18 and 24 years respectively, said that although Marshal is a big commitment, he’s made their jobs more enjoyable.
“We already love our jobs,” Carroll said. “Marshal is just a bonus.”