Fievel, Moving to End Sexual Assault’s first four-legged employee, is celebrating his one-year anniversary as the crisis center’s facility dog.

The golden retriever lab mix plays no small role in MESA’s mission, which is to provide support and services to survivors of sexual assault. Since Fievel’s May 2018 arrival at the Boulder- and Broomfield-based center, he has assisted more than 700 clients.

MESA’s partnership with an assistance dog began more than two years ago, when MESA Director Janine D’Anniballe took action on her vision to implement a furry friend to comfort clients in the midst of dealing with their respective traumatic experiences.

“I wanted to bring in a dog so our office could feel more welcoming,” D’Anniballe said. “I thought this could bring an element of lightness and joy during a really difficult time and experience for someone.”

Other Boulder County agencies, including the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and Blue Sky Bridge, have brought on facility dogs in recent years.

In 2017, MESA reached out to Canine Companions for Independence, a California-based organization that breeds, trains and provides assistance dogs free of charge. Before being matched with Fievel, MESA officials endured a lengthy interview process and two-week training period.

After finally getting the OK, Fievel started his mission at the office.

“He is the most well-trained dog and has the perfect temperament,” D’Anniballe said. “It was smooth sailing right off the bat — he was well-prepared for his working life with us. He fit in seamlessly.”

Fievel, now 3 years old, often spends his 30- to 40-hour work week greeting clients, sitting in on therapy sessions and comforting victims after particularly cathartic sessions.

“Clients who weren’t in the best place would have smiles on their faces and their moods would instantly change with the levity and hope that was in our office with Fievel around,” D’Anniballe said.

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