There was never any doubt four-year-old Jake was meant to do something special. When he was a puppy, the Labrador mix from Tennessee started training to be a search and rescue dog. He learned how to sniff out bodies trapped under collapsed buildings, and he excelled during training. He had the nose for the job, but sensitive paws meant Jake couldn’t scramble over collapsed walls and debris without putting himself in danger.
When his career as a search and rescue dog didn’t work out, he was sent to an adoption agency for service dogs. He started another round of training to learn how to help people with physical disabilities. He once again showed off his intelligence and willingness to learn, but previous training kept getting in the way.
On more than one occasion, Jake picked up on the smell of a cadaver that he was trained to recognize and seek out. His instinct was to bolt in the direction of the smell, and this caused obvious problems for his handler. Because his future owner may end up spending time in a hospital, Jake’s trainer decided being a service dog wasn’t the best fit.
This is my office. I let Rhoni share it with me, but no one comes to see her. They all come by to see me, though! …
With two failed careers at such a young age, Jake was at a turning point in his life. He could have gone home to be an average pet, but there was something about his personality that gave his owner the idea to take him into work.
Rhoni Brooks Standefer works in the district attorney’s office in Anderson County, TN. She frequently meets with victims of tragedy who are afraid, stressed, and generally overwhelmed. When she brought Jake into work for the first time five months ago, he met one of those victims. It was a young woman who had been beaten and was struggling to cope with the trauma. It was hard for her to talk about what happened, but meeting Jake shifted her outlook.
Without being told, Jake approached the woman to offer comfort. He laid his head in her lap and let her stroke his ears and rub his belly while she talked to the district attorney about her case. That was the light bulb moment that lead to Jake’s third, and final, career move.
Rhoni recognized that her dog’s natural empathy combined with his extensive training made him an excellent emotional support dog. He has an ability to sense a person’s emotional needs, and he instinctively knows what to do to make them feel better.
Now that he’s an official employee, Jake – The DA Dog meets with people a few times a week in his office. He also accompanies people to court to help them give difficult statements to the judge. He responds to commands without hesitation, and he even picked up a few tricks on his own. When the bailiff at court says “All rise,” Jake figured out by watching everyone else that he needs to stand up, too.
Today I brought Jake’s new bunny (named Bummer) that he has adopted since losing his doggie housemate. He has proudly shown it to everyone in the office!
There’s a lot Jake learned from his multiple stints at extensive training programs, but the characteristic that makes him a great emotional support dog couldn’t be taught. Even people who aren’t dog lovers take an instant liking to Jake’s sympathetic eyes and comforting demeanor. His path toward success wasn’t straight or simple, but now that he’s found his calling, he’s doing a lot of good for a lot of people.
Featured Image Source: Facebook/Jake the DA dog
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