Suffolk County DA Daniel F. Conley’s latest hire is only two years old and doesn’t talk much, but he’s bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and already working like a dog.
His name is Indy, and he’s the first facility dog assigned to a Massachusetts prosecutor’s office – or any government agency in New England. The specially-trained golden retriever and yellow Labrador mix was provided to the Suffolk DA’s office last month at no cost by Canine Companions for Independence after an extensive application process and handler training regimen.
“Navigating the criminal justice system can be daunting even for someone who isn’t in crisis,” Conley said. “But for someone afraid and uncertain about describing a traumatic event before a room full of strangers, it can be overwhelming. That’s where Indy comes in. He’s specially trained to be a source of comfort to people, especially children, in emotional turmoil.”
Unlike service dogs who are trained to help a specific person, usually with a disability, Indy is a facility dog who offers comfort and stress relief to many people, often strangers.
Over the past few weeks, Conley said, Indy has sat in on a meeting with a family working through the serious, debilitating injury of a loved one in a car crash, made friends with a teenager who was sexual assaulted, and most recently sat in on a forensic interview with a very young victim of physical and sexual abuse by family members.
“In this latter case, Indy’s already proven his value,” Conley said. “In a previous forensic interview, the little boy was emotionally walled-off from the interviewer and we made very little progress. But last week, we introduced him to Indy. After getting to know one another for a little while, they went into the interview room and something remarkable happened – the boy opened up more than he ever had before. There was something about Indy’s gentle, loving nature that let the child speak.”