The newest employee at the Denver District Attorney’s Office is making a lot of noise despite being the quietest member of the staff.
His name is Rylan, and on Thursday, the facility dog was introduced by District Attorney Beth McCann and his handler, Senior Deputy District Attorney Jason Kramer. Rylan, a two-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever mix was mostly calm and quiet — as he’s trained to be — during his introduction inside the Rose Andom Center. The family justice center specializes in assisting domestic violence victims and is one of several places Rylan will work in to assist adults and children.
It was McCann’s idea to bring a facility dog to her office. McCann said the office applied to receive a dog about a year and a half before they finally got Rylan.
On Thursday, Rylan sported a little vest and was outfitted with a tiny Denver Police badge.
“We are using Rylan to soothe and comfort people who have been victimized, survivors of crimes, particularly children,” McCann said. “His work consists of coming to places like Rose Andom Center and just being present when — particularly children — have to describe really traumatic incidents.”
Rylan started working at the office in November after spending two years in an extensive training program that included learning more than 40 commands. Since arriving, he’s already made a few court appearances to familiarize himself with the setting and spent time next to victims, providing companionship during certain hearings.
One of the office’s goals for Rylan will be using him during court appearances for victims providing testimony. The dog will sit next to victims inside a witness stand, though it wouldn’t be visible to jury members. Kramer said Rylan has already made one appearance behind the witness stand during a hearing.
McCann said it’s up to judges to decided whether or not to allow the dog into the court. She anticipates there may be occasions when defense attorneys object to his presence.
Rylan was provided free of charge by Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that trains assistance dogs.
He’s valued at up to $50,000 because of his extensive training.
McCann said Kramer is responsible for food and veterinary costs for the dog. He lives with Kramer (and his wife and their English bulldog), who must work to keep the dog healthy and basically treat him like you would any dog: brushing his teeth, trimming his nails, taking him on walks and brushing his coat.
“He’s very nice to have in the office,” Kramer said. “Just the effect he’s had on people, staff in our office, with the police department, the courtroom staff, they’ve all enjoyed having him around.”
Kramer admits there were a few fellow employees who were jealous of his assignment, which included an interview process and two weeks of training alongside Rylan.
“For me, it was understanding what his commands are, how to motivate him, how to utilize him effectively,” Kramer said.
In addition to helping victims of domestic violence, Rylan will also work at the Veterans Court, with staff at the Juvenile Court and the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center. Though Rylan is not a therapy dog, McCann said he can still help reduce anxiety for people in court and can be present when people are being interviewed.
“Unlike a regular service dog, where I would be the only beneficiary of the service he provides, he’s a trained service dog but he gets to interact with everybody,” Kramer said, which means Rylan gets weekends off to be just a regular dog.