The Anderson County District Attorney General’s office has a new employee that’s barking up a lot of attention.
This new hire has black hair, big brown eyes and four legs. While his wagging tail makes him stand out, his enthusiasm for the job is inspiring.
Jake, a black lab mix, failed three times as a service dog, according to his owner Rhoni Standefer.
She said he started off as a FEMA dog in California, but he was discharged because his feet were too tender and couldn’t handle the rubble.
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs took him in to be trained as a service dog, but Standefer said he got too distracted to be a service dog.
“If he alerted to something, then he would go after it,” Standefer said. “And if you were attached to the leash, you went after it, too.”
Then Standefer said Jake was thought to be a good candidate as an alert dog for a patient on a breathing machine whose family was worried she would stop breathing. Jake is too heavy of a sleeper for that job, thought, Standefer said.
After the failed attempts to have Jake serve in those capacities, Standefer said he was bound to be a house pet, and she had found him a family. Before she could give him away, Standefer’s grandson convinced her to keep Jake.
Standefer works as the victim and witness coordinator for domestic assaults in the Anderson County District Attorney General’s office. She started bringing him to work at the office, and Jake found his purpose after all as a comfort dog.
“We had a victim that came in, and she was very upset,” Standefer said. “Jake just migrated over to her and laid his head in her lap. She calmed right down and was able to talk to us.”
When Jake did this a second time, Standefer said that’s when District Attorney General Dave Clark really got on board.
“Jake apparently is able to sense distress or emotional upset,” Clark said. “He comes to that person without being told. Rhoni doesn’t have to ask him to do that. He just naturally does that.”
Clark said as people have emotional needs, Jake is able to detect that, and the dog stands by the person through those moments to help them through the situation.
The job of the District Attorney General’s office is to get to the truth, Clark said. Jake helps them do this by providing a distraction to victims so they can open up and tell their story.
“He is making our job easier and allowing us to do it better,” Clark said. “So better, faster, easier, it’s not hard to find reasons to have him here.”
Jake stays in the office with Standefer and goes to court with her. He is learning respect for the court system, and even stands when he hears “all rise” before the judge enters the courtroom.
She has seen Jake’s compassion make a difference in victims’ demeanor as they go through these difficult situations.
“He distracts them from the agony that they’re in to some degree, and they’re able to relax more and be able to tell us things that we may need to know,” Standefer added.
Clark said Jake is now a permanent employee of the office as he helps make legal proceedings a little less ruff for victims.