Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Marshal the Courthouse Dog comforts victims of crime

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OLYMPIA -- When you're the victim of a crime, it can turn into a very lengthy, emotional process; especially if you have to testify in court. That's where Marshal, Courthouse Dog comes in. He joined the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's office at the end of 2015, and is already having a positive impact on so many people in just his first few months on the job.

Trained by Assistance Dogs of Hawaii,  Marshal the Labrador knows more than 80 commands. His focus: comforting victims of crime. Victims can meet with him before and after court appearances (and he is currently training to be able to sit inside the courtroom, something the folks with Thurston County say could become a reality in the coming months).

It may sound simple, but it's meant a world of difference to victims like Amanda Jackson. Amanda was the victim of a bank robbery, which happened back in 2013 when she was a teller. "It wasn't just the money that he stole," she told us. "It was more my peace of mind."

She served as the key witness in the lengthy trial that followed. "Marshal was just a huge part of knowing every time I had to come to the courthouse, I had a reason to smile and not just be scared."

Before and after each court appearance, Amanda sat with Marshal. Just sitting with him, petting his fur, and staring into his soulful eyes brought Amanda a lot of peace during a chaotic time. When we interviewed her last month, she looked at the back of Marshal's card for the first time; and noticed he was born on the exact day she was robbed. "He was just meant to be here," Amanda says.

Kim Carroll is a senior victim advocate, and works with Marshal every day. A few days a week, she brings him to the Family Justice Center, where he provides comfort to kids and their families.  "Since he has such a calm demeanor, he's able to sit in interviews for a great length of time- hour, hour and a half, and he would just sit... and be calm and comforting," she said.

Prosecuting attorney Jon Tunheim and his team spent quite awhile working toward bringing a dog like Marshal onto the team. They applied to Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, who then approved their application and worked with them to bring Marshal to Thurston County.  Marshal's training took over a year and a half; and near the end, Kim, along with Marshal's caretaker Wendy,  flew to Hawaii for training on how to work with Marshal.

Marshal comes to Thurston County as a donation from Assistance Dogs of Hawaii; grant money paid for things like Kim and Wendy's trip to see him.

Marshal's extensive training means he knows over 80 commands including "snuggle" and "visit". That training, combined with his calm demeanor, is what make him the perfect Courthouse Dog.

And Tunheim says Marshal is helping everyone. "I really do think it improves the entire system," he said. "It improves our ability to try our case, and... it even brings a bit more humanity to the criminal justice system."

You can follow Marshal on Instagram and Facebook: @MarshaltheCourthouseDog.