Arapahoe County courthouse dog comforts young victims, witnesses

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- Arapahoe County's courthouse dog brings comfort to victims and witnesses going through tough times.

Pella is a Labrador and golden retriever mix. She started working for Arapahoe County in 2012. At the time, she was the only dog of her kind in the state.

Her handler, Amber Urban, said Pella fulfills a unique role. When victims have to recount terrible events with investigators, Pella is there for them to pet and hold. When victims testify on the witness stand, Pella sits at their feet.

Urban said she has seen numerous times where people have been distraught or upset and one interaction with Pella clams them down. Just recently, Urban said Pella worked her magic with one young victim.

"She was almost hyperventilating and panicking. She was shaking. I said 'Sit down, take off your shoes, put your feet on Pella. You're going to be fine. Take a breath,' and she did a great job."

Urban said Pella's impact on people is backed up by science.

"A good piece of that is the fact that their contact with Pella when they are talking about these traumatizing events, it changes their physiological chemistry just a little bit," Urban said.

"Maybe the next time they talk about it, maybe it doesn't feel quite as traumatizing or quite as upsetting or quite a painful."

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