MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - It's a very special mission for a very special canine!
Montgomery County's courthouse dog has made the trip to Las Vegas to provide support to those traumatized by the horrific mass shooting and she's already making an impact.
Willow a well-known, beloved figure in the Montgomery County court system. She is a highly skilled facility dog who works with Child Protect.
Child Protect is a children's advocacy center that provides a non-threatening site where a multi-disciplinary team is used to minimize trauma for victims of child abuse.
Willow is a comfort to victims through every stage of the criminal justice system, as they talk to investigators and prosecutors in interviews and then as they head to grand jury proceedings and into the courtroom to testify at trial.
This week, she's taken a very big assignment. Willow is one of a handful of certified facility dog teams asked to provide support to victims, witnesses, employees, family members- anyone traumatized by the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
"This is groundbreaking for us. It's the first time that we've ever had facility dog teams to be deployed or called into service outside the area where we serve. We're very privileged and honored to have been asked to come out here. It's something we've talked about, but never had to put into action until now," Willow's handler, Tamara Martin said.
Willow and Martin were contacted by the Courthouse Dogs Foundation who needed eight certified facility dog teams to come to Vegas.
They answered the call and were on a plane within 24 hours. They worked all day Sunday and Monday.
A massive operation is underway in Las Vegas to make victims whole again and to get them the services they need.
Willow is doing what she does best, greeting people and staying right by their side as they find solace in her calm presence.
"She lays next to them, either at their feet or if they're on a bench, she can lay beside them and they can pet her. She interacts with kids and shows them how she can turn the pages of a book, play cards, shake hands and give high fives," Martin said. "She just puts a smile on everybody's face."
Facility dog teams traveled to Las Vegas from all over the country and even Canada. Willow and her handler will be there helping until Thursday.
"Some of the teams are going into the hospitals and working with the family members and survivors who are hospitalized. We have a lot of requests for her and for all of the dogs that are here working. People want to meet them. They know what an impact they can have in lowering their stress, their blood pressure and heart rate. They're very much in high demand out here," Martin added.
Willow is the only certified courthouse facility dog in Alabama.