The newest addition to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has a couple more legs and a lot more fur than the rest of his colleagues.
Bear, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever, was sworn in by District Attorney Diana Becton during a ceremony in Martinez earlier this month. And while having a dog around the office sounds like fun, his job will be a serious one. Bear’s role will be to provide support to crime victims and witnesses, particularly juvenile victims of sexual assault.
“Bear is going to work a lot with our victim assistance program, because our advocates are assigned to every case in the office where there is a victim of crime,” said Shannon Mahoney, victim assistance program manager for the district attorney’s office. “Specifically with kids, we’re going to have an advocate working with those families. The advocates build strong relationships with the families, and we’re going to add Bear into that dynamic when kids are comfortable with that. He’ll be part of the team to help support them through our criminal justice system, which can be scary for people ... We can make this a safe place and a safe environment for them to go through this tough process.”
Earlier this year, Assistant Inspector Janet Era applied for and was accepted by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) for a facility dog placement. She was trained by CCI during an intensive two-week program in Santa Rosa. The cost of training — estimated at more than $50,000 — was donated to the county by CCI. Era was eventually paired with Bear based on her interactions with the dog, and his interactions and responses to her during the training.
“The handler doesn’t pick the dog; the dog picks you,” explained Era. “Being partnered with Bear has brought a sense of calm to the environment we work in. Observing the change he instantly makes in a victim’s life makes me grateful to be partnered with him.”
When he’s off-duty, Bear lives at home with Era, her three children and two guinea pigs. She said that when Bear is wearing his service vest, he is calm and relaxed. When Bear’s service vest is off, he’ll run amok and wrestle with her kids like any other 2-year-old dog. Bear is expected to serve in his role for approximately eight years.
“It’s been very positive so far,” said Era. “Everybody loves him. It’s very exciting.”
For more information on Canine Companions for Independence, visit www.cci.org.