PHOENIX— The MCAO family is remembering the important work of the Office’s first victim support dog, Sam, in light of his passing last week. Sam officially retired from the Office in July of 2016 and has been enjoying his retirement and trips to the beach while in the loving care of his handler Rhonda Stewart.
“Sam will always be remembered as an important member of this Office, his service paved the way for our support dog program to continue to help bring criminals to justice by helping victims through an often emotionally difficult process,” said County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “As our first victim support dog, Sam was able to showcase the importance of the support dog role by providing comfort and unconditional support to victims of all ages.”
Sam was a true trailblazer as one of the first three Courthouse Dogs in the nation. Throughout his six-year career with MCAO, Sam carried a caseload of an average of 10 victims per month totaling more than 750 victims helped through the often stressful and confusing judicial process. Sam attended hundreds of criminal justice hearings including pretrial hearings, sentencings and trials with victims. All types of victims were served and comforted by him: children, adults, the elderly, sex abuse victims, stalking and domestic violence victims and the family members of those murdered.
Sam, who lived to be 11-years-old was a Golden Retriever-Irish Setter mix. He was originally found as a puppy wandering around the streets of the Sunnyslope area in Phoenix before being turned into the Humane Society. There, the Foundation for Service Dog Support found him and fell in love with him. They thought he had the perfect temperament needed for a service dog. Sam successfully completed training and, with financial support from PetSmart, he came to work for the County Attorney’s office on May 22, 2010.
While Sam achieved many accolades during his career of service, it will be the memories of his strong, but gentle spirit that will be forever missed from the halls of the County Attorney’s Office and the courtrooms of Maricopa County Superior Court.