HONOLULU, Hawaii — Dozens bid Aloha to Hawaii’s first courthouse dog that helped hundreds of crime victims overcome their fears.
Prosecutors say popular pooch “Pono” played a crucial role in putting criminals that were close to walking free behind bars.
Friends and colleagues donned hats and other eye catching apparel to pay respects to Pono.
The Labrador retriever served in Honolulu’s courthouse dog program since 2011, that’s where she supported victims, many of them children, hesitant to talk about crimes either committed against them or that they had witnessed.
“We used to see a lot of cases where child victims could not talk about what happened to them and we knew something bad happened to them but because of the fact that they were traumatized, they would not talk as a result. Because they did not talk, we could not prosecute cases,” Deputy prosecuting attorney Keith Kaneshiro said.
Kaneshiro says that all changed when Pono joined the department.
“Kids who previously were very nervous because they could sit there and have her head in their lap and just pet her they would just be like ok this is something that I can do,” Dennis Dunn, Victim Witness Kokua Services director said.
Dunn was also Pono’s handler, which meant she’d go home with him each night after work.
Kanoeanuhea Onaha was a victim of crime who worked with Pono.
“In the beginning, I never wanted to say anything. But because of Pono, her being in the room. I took from her love and I grew strength and I was able to conquer fear and to grow and become something I am now that I’m proud of that I am meant to be,” Onaha said.
After 11 years with the department, Pono lost her battle with cancer earlier this month. She was 10 years old but her legacy continues.
Her pooches, not quite puppies anymore are all trained in the service field too.
Hawaii’s second courthouse dog is set to arrive in August.
“I’m ready to do this with another dog for another eight or nine or 10 years. The program is too important to let it pass with Pono. she would want us to carry it on,” Dunn said.