Jake is a black lab mix who failed not once, not twice, but three times from service dog training. He doggedly pursued his dream of being a useful social servant and eventually landed a position that fit.
Jake is now an emotional support pup at the Anderson County District Attorney General’s Office in Clinton. His mom, Rhoni Standefer is the office’s domestic violence victim/witness coordinator. Jakes job is to comfort abuse victims.
He was originally being trained as a Search and Rescue good boy but his paws were too tender for the intense digging required. Standefer offered to bring Jake home after he flunked the program. She was training him as a service dog for a physically challenged veteran. Super excited about the new opportunity, Jake quickly learned the necessary skills – like shutting doors and opening fridges. He learned sign language basics like “sit,” “down” and “visit.” He was “stellar” in public, Standefer says.
There was only one problem.
Jake liked to run.
Leftover from his Search and Rescue training, Jake would notice something in the distance and take off like a lightning bolt.
“There would be something that would get his attention. … And out of the clear blue sky he would alert to that and take off with you,” Standefer says.
This one poor habit deemed Jake unfit for life as a service dog, and Standefer once again consulted the doggie-yellow-pages.
His next opportunity was as a medical dog trained to alert caregivers if a disabled person’s breathing machine went off.
But, Jake liked to sleep.
The pup wouldn’t wake up to the machines warning beeps, preferring to snooze in a deep slumber instead.
One day, Jake accompanied his mom to her job at the DA’s office, comforted an emotionally distraught victim and the rest is history. The pup can sense when someone needs him and lends a furry shoulder to cry on. He stays out of the way when he’s not needed, quietly sleeping at Standefer’s feet. Jake also knows his way around court proceedings, and will stand when the bailiff states “All Rise”.
Besides just emotional comfort, Jake also makes the process of discussing abuse easier for victims. He allows himself to be a silent support system.
“Jake makes it easier and quicker for us to get to the truth because witnesses are able and willing to talk in candid ways when they are in his presence that otherwise they aren’t willing to or it takes longer to get to,” Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark says. “What Jake does is he makes this intimidating, frightening process easier for people.
“It’s an animal helping us express human compassion for victims and others going through the process.”