The FBI’s first therapy dog

Dolce is an 8-year-old German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix who works for the FBI. He’s not your typical K9 officer. He doesn’t sniff out drugs or bombs, or work on crime scenes in the traditional role. Instead he calms people with his lovable nature and listens as they speak. Dolce is the Bureau’s one and only therapy dog.

His handler and owner Rachel Pierce, is a child psychologist. She joined the FBI five years ago, having previously worked for the Department of Defense and law enforcement. She got Dolce in 2004 from a local shelter because she was looking for a puppy she could train to be a service dog, as she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

“I thought it would be nice to have a dog that did some things around the house for me when my symptoms flared up,” she said. “There are days I can’t move or even lift a sheet,” says Pierce.

Dolce easily passed his service-dog training. When it became clear to Pierce how much Dolce loved people she thought he could be an excellent therapy dog as well. She spent several years training him, and he graduated with flying colors. “He’s a good service dog, but he’s an amazing therapy dog,” says Pierce.

The pair now work in the Bureau’s K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program together. They work in the field with victims of a wide range of crimes such as child pornography, kidnapping cases, violent robberies, and white-collar crime cases as well as death notifications. With his lovable personality, Dolce excels at comforting crime victims and their families.

Dolce works for Victim Services at the FBIDolce also goes to scenes of violent crime, to de-escalate the chaos and stress of the situation. Just the presence of a dog can produce a calming effect. “It can lower blood pressure and make you feel more relaxed,” explains Pierce. A calm witness can better help investigators with information about the crime.

Having seen the positive influence Dolce has had on victims and their families, she suggested a therapy-dog program to leadership, who embraced the idea. Pierce then set about to create and implement a therapy dog program. It became the first of its kind for the Bureau.

Last year, Rachel Pierce and Dolce received the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence for “distinguished service for assisting victims of crime.” Dolce is not retiring just yet, but Pierce is training her new puppy, Kevlar, to take over Dolce’s important work. Pierce also hopes to see the therapy dog program expanded to other FBI offices. “I know a lot of other victim specialists around the country who would be interested in training and working with a therapy dog. I would love to see that happen.”

Leave a Reply