Meet Dolce, The FBI’s First Therapy Dog
This blue-eyed barker and his handler, Victim Specialist Rachel Pierce, pioneered the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program.
Rachel Pierce: Dolce, do you love me? Ask him, do you love me? (bark) (laugh) Do you love me? (bark)
Mollie Halpern: Meet Dolce, the therapy dog.
Child: Do you love me? (bark)
Halpern: This blue-eyed barker and his handler, Victim Specialist Rachel Pierce, pioneered the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program.
Before Dolce began helping victims as a therapy dog, he assisted Rachel as a service dog. Rachel’s rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes make it too painful to do daily chores.
Pierce: Some of the things he learned as a service dog—he would turn lights on and off, he could jump up and do the switches, he did my laundry.
Halpern: Although Rachel had originally adopted Dolce as a service dog, Dolce had other plans…
Rachel realized that Dolce had too much love to give to keep him for herself—so she began to cross-train him as a therapy dog.
Pierce: He is a good service dog, but he is an amazing therapy dog. He just loves people.
Halpern: Rachel spent years training Dolce to the highest military and civilian standards under the supervision of an organization called Pet Partners.
In order to earn his certification to become a therapy dog, Dolce had to pass a rigorous test. And he passed it on the first try.
Pierce: I definitely would say he’s a very well trained dog.
Halpern: Eventually, Rachel began to work with Dolce in the Human Animal Bond Program at the Department of Defense, where she was a child psychologist.
When Rachel later joined the FBI, she wanted the Bureau to benefit from a similar program.
Pierce: There’s this acceptance and love that you get from an animal. It can lower blood pressure, makes you feel calmer. All the studies kind of turn to those things, when it comes to just how much the presence of an animal can help.
Halpern: FBI leadership understood the value and need for a K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program, so Rachel dedicated herself to creating one.
Kathryn Turman is the program director of the Office of Victim Assistance at FBI Headquarters.
Kathryn Turman: The Bureau always wants to be on the cutting edge of things. So being able to utilize a tool, a resource like a therapy dog to help alleviate the concerns and fears of children and other victims I think is really very much in tune with the FBI’s approach to being, as I said, on the cutting edge of things.
Halpern: Rachel and Dolce began working in the field with victims of child pornography and kidnapping cases, violent bank robberies, and even white-collar cases and death notifications.
Pierce: Victim specialists are often responsible for assisting in those death notifications, and it’s one of the hardest parts of our jobs, obviously. It’s very difficult and very emotional. Some of the times that I’ve done it with Dolce, it surprised even me, some of the things that have come out. There’s this human-animal bond that is unspeakable.
Halpern: Dolce and Rachel not only help victims during traumatic times; the pair also lends a hand—and a paw—to special agents.
Special Agent Keith Moses of the Nashville Resident Agency (RA)…
Keith Moses: We do have an extra tool in the toolbox with Dolce. For us to have Dolce—the only dog in the Bureau and having it sitting in an RA—is quite invaluable.
Special Agent Brian Fazenbaker has requested Rachel and Dolce’s assistance when he is investigating at the scene of a violent crime.
Fazenbaker: When Rachel comes, especially when she has her dog—her canine—you can just see the whole scene de-escalate and just kind of put to calmness on the scene.
Halpern: That calmness Dolce and Rachel bring to a chaotic situation helps agents with their investigations.
Fazenbaker: She interacts with those victims and it helps us out because she’s that conduit between an investigator and the victim.
Halpern: Rachel and Dolce’s teamwork has enhanced the role of a victim specialist—so much so that they received the FBI Director’s Award for Distinguished Service for Assisting Victims of Crimes.
Pierce: He’s changed my life in a lot of ways. I’m obviously I’m so proud of him for all the other lives he’s helped and all the other lives he’s touched, and he’s helped a lot of people. I think he’s had an amazing life.
Halpern: Life as therapy dog will come to an end as Dolce gets closer to retirement. When that happens, Rachel does not want the program to end.
She’s hoping another blue-eyed barker will pick up where Dolce left off.
Pierce: I’m a one-dog kind of girl, but I did get a puppy a while back and I’ve started training her.
Halpern: The 22-month-old pup passed her therapy dog certification test.
Pierce: She got the highest qualification there is. I’m very proud.
Rachel says Kevlar still has a lot to learn ... but with a mentor like Dolce, Rachel hopes Kevlar will someday be the FBI’s next therapy dog.
Bringing comfort to victims…and assisting agents helping America become a safer place.