Comfort dog joins Tempe's Victim Services

TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) -- It's a first for the City of Tempe, as the East Valley city hired a dog to join their Victim Services team.

Now, just four weeks into the job, the dog's handlers say he is doing great work, already helping many people. The dog, Sully, is only two years old, and has the title of comfort canine. He has the mission of helping victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other trauma.

"This dog is highly trained. He was trained for two years by Paws With A Cause, which is an agency in Michigan," said Care 7 Manager Kristen Sharlau.

Some may say he's just a dog, but the Care 7 Victim Services team shared a heartbreaking story.

"There was a victim who was reporting a sexual assault situation," said Care 7 Victim Services Coordinator Maria Gonzalez.

And this victim didn't do well with just humans.

"She was having a really hard time talking about it," said Gonzalez. "She was having a hard time talking to me about it and the investigator."

After meeting Sully, there was a shift in the victim's body language.

"It was no longer the lack of eye contact. She was making eye contact with us. She was no longer closed in on her chair," said Gonzalez.

And after more time with Sully...

"Opening up about the situation. She was talking about details. Really providing the information needed to continue the investigative process," said Gonzalez.

The Yellow Lab works five days a week, just like his co-workers.

"Once the vest is on, only work mode," said Care 7 Victim Advocate Anastasia Stinchfield. "There is no playtime."

Sully is a true professional, but during his breaks and on the weekend, his vest is off, and he's just like any other dog, who likes to play with his toys and knows a few tricks. Sully may be the first dog to join Tempe's Victim Services team, but he is most likely not the last. The department manager says Sully has been so successful during his first month on the job, helping calm victims down, they may hire more pups in the future.