Calhoun Co. Prosecutor's office brings on new employee

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The latest hire inside the Calhoun County Prosecutor's office has four legs.

Holli is an 18-month-old yellow labrador, who's now a trained professional.

Holli's new job is to comfort victims of terrible criems while they testify in a courtroom.

We followed Holli through a day at work to see what things are like for her.

She now lives with County Prosecutor David Gilbert, and after work, it's back to being a puppy at home.

But she becomes a different dog as soon as she puts on her working bandana.

Like at any other household, we're greeted at the door.

"She's my dog now, and she comes to work with me every day," Gilbert says. "Sometimes she doesn't want to come in."

Three weeks on the job, and Holli has been on every morning drive. She knows when it's time to get ready to go to work with dad.

She's greeted like any other employee, and has quickly become the favorite co-worker.

Holli is trained to sit or lay down for hours at a time, next to someone who's taking the witness stand.

It's something that came easy for her, but can be a tall order for children.

"The child can see that she's there, and they can get some comfort from that dog being in the courtroom," Gilbert said.

In a court of law, every defendant has the chance to face their accusers, and the few feet a witness sits from a defendant in a courtroom can feel like mere inches to a child who is the victim of a heinous crime.

That's why Gilbert says he fought to have Holli in the courtroom, so those children will never have to re-live their darkest hours alone.

"She doesn't change their testimony, she doesn't affect that part of it; it's that encouragement of having someone on your side," said Victim Services Director Nora Geiger. "I've had a couple of cases where I've had victims get to the door of the courtroom, and just can't go in."

Those who work in the prosecutor's office see the difference she's already making in their own lives.

"This kind of environment can be stressful, and a little disheartening, so we have to find ways to get through the day, and she certainly has helped out in that a lot," said employee Melissa Jelinek.

"Some people here aren't dog people, and to see them love on her is great," siad Julie Hinten.

That includes Holli's new deskmate, Victim's Advocate Tomika Bell.

"I've never really been around pets and when she got here, it just seemed like she attached to me, but now I love her and I love her being here," she said.

Holli came at no cost to the county, but there is a donation fund set up to help pay for her vet visits and food.

To donate, make checks payable to the following:

Prosecutor's Office (write "Holli" in memo line)
161 E Michigan Ave.
Battle Creek, MI 49014.