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Rachel, Mesa's K-9 Companion

Important but Silent

Meeting Rachael was a treasure. Getting to know her and what she does for our community needs to be shared with our community because this dog plays an important, yet silent role, supporting advocacy for child victims of violence and sexual abuse performed by "The Center".

Ashley (Rachael’s handler) is employed by the District Attorney’s Office, but housed at the Center for Children near Community Hospital. “We are housed here, which makes perfect sense because this is where children come to meet law enforcement for the first time”. Ashley continued, “I wish I could take a picture of when children first meet her. Because we come around the corner and their body language opens up and they change. They go from being scared, tense, and 'why am I here and have to talk to a strange person?' to all of the sudden, 'you have a dog?' and their face lights up!"

Rachael is very involved throughout the whole process. From the beginning forensic interview, medical exams, therapy sessions, through the court proceedings, and all the way through the whole legal process. “It’s really great for the child. It gives them some continuity and minimizes the trauma of having to tell their story,” Ashley said. The first court dog was introduced in 2004 and it was found that a dog did have a very positive effect on helping people navigate traumatic situations. Helping people, especially children, relax helps them say what they need to say and can help them get through the court phase and onto healing.

An interesting fact about court house dogs is that they are trained to the same level as service dogs. Rachael has to re-certify on a regular basis. The big difference with a court house dog is that she has been trained to be around large groups of people in public settings, and children touching/petting the dog constantly. Rachael has been trained to work for long periods of time. Such as sitting in the witness stand for two hours at a time and she can be in a forensic interview for 3 hours at a time. Court dogs are also bred for low reactivity and low prey drive. Ashley explained, “So, if we are in court and an attorney starts shouting, which happens, it’s okay for Rachael to look, but not react, and she doesn’t. If a squirrel ran by right now, she would look, but she wouldn’t chase it, and she is bred for that.” When Rachael meets a child she likes to check them out, and lick their face, but she settles down pretty fast. She’ll rest her head on the child’s lap and let them pet her or Rachael will curl up next to them while the child talks. “She’s very sensitive to the emotions in the room. Courtrooms can be very emotional places. People cry, people, get upset, and she’s there to help absorb some of that angst from the child. And that’s the whole idea; to support the child.” Ashley continued, "All of this can be taxing even for Rachael, and watching out for her mental health is important. So at the end of the day, we go and play, run around, and play with the other dog at home. I also take Rachael to AKC shows. It gets her out and stretches her brain and muscles and lets her just be a dog."

You may be wondering how often Rachael serves our community. Ashley says “more than we would like to think about. Rachael works every day back to back”. If you would like to help the Center for Children you can donate to the Center or you can donate to Canine Companions ( to help more dogs serve more communities.