Dog joins ranks for calming presence at Ramsey County Attorney's Office

Image 1 of 3

A new staff member is working to make tough situations feel a little less rough at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

“And typically we don’t have a press event to introduce a new employee, but this is a really unique new employee,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. “She’s of the four-legged variety.”

Tuesday, multiple members of the press met Norie, a two-year-old Golden Retriever.

“This has been a long journey for us,” said Choi. “It’s been about more than four years in the planning to bring a facility dog to help our office with the work we do on a day-to-day basis.”

Hopkins-based “Helping Paws,” an organization that traditionally works with service dogs for the disabled and veterans, trained Norie. She is the first “courthouse dog” Helping Paws has placed. 

“They help victims who are trying to tell us what happened to them have the confidence to tell us everything that happened to them,” said Tami McConkey, the director of victim, witness and community services at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

Norie began at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office at the beginning of June. So far, she’s been on hand when witnesses or victims come in to be interviewed. She has taken part in about a dozen interviews and officials say Norie makes a noticeable difference.

Norie’s handler recalled an elderly woman, who was horribly shaken up after a brutal assault.

“Just during the meeting you could tell she wasn’t moving as much and was just more calm and willing to talk, you know, and she would reach down and pet Norie and it was just amazing to leave that meeting knowing the effect she had,” said Bill Kubes, Norie’s handler.

So far, Norie is staying in the office, but in other states, courthouse dogs go to trial, too. The dogs sit at the feet of witnesses, and often, juries don’t even know. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office hopes this could be in Norie’s future.

“They’re trained to just sit there, and there are situations where witnesses have spilled a glass of water on the dog and the dog just remains calm,” said McConkey. “That’s part of their strength.”