NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Summer evenings strolling along the shoreline in Virginia Beach are a perfect way to wind down after a busy workday. For Jack Bondurant and his four-legged sidekick, Griff, it’s a part of their daily routine.

After all, it’s Griff’s time to shake off the stress and be a typical dog. When he’s not exploding into the surf, he’s gearing up for a serious mission.

“He definitely knows how to turn it on when it’s time to work whether it be coming into the office and interacting with more elderly people and little kids,” said Bondurant.

The one-a-half-year-old chocolate lab spends his days at the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. His bow tie means business; Griff is training to become Norfolk’s courthouse facility dog.

“Right now, he’s going, whether it be every week or every two to three weeks, to Mutts with a Mission. It’s a nonprofit down in Pungo. They cater mostly to military veterans and law enforcement agencies,” Bondurant.

According to Court House Dogs Foundation, courthouse facility dogs are professionally trained dogs working throughout the country in prosecutor’s offices, child advocacy centers, and family courts. They primarily provide a calming influence for children during stressful legal proceedings. There are currently 287 court dogs in 41 states.

“Sometimes it’s the worst experience of their life and we’re asking them to come in and re-live it to make sure the other person is held accountable,” Bondurant said.

As legally neutral companions for witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of crimes, these dogs help the most vulnerable witnesses feel willing and able to describe what happened, said Court House Dogs Foundation.

Griff is already meeting victims and witnesses who come to the office to prepare for trials.

“He’ll come and they’ll give Griff a treat, he’ll try to get some ear scratches. Just seeing the kids kind of light up when that happens, then later on opening up when they have to talk about these things,” smiled Bondurant.

They plan to have Griff ready for the courtroom in the next year and a half.

“He’s got his mat over there and it’s giving him the command to go to the mat, stay on the mat, and stay there until he’s released. So, in theory, we’d take the same mat, put it on the witness stand, at the witnesses’ feet when they testify out of view from the jury, and provide them comfort,” Bondurant explained.

Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, Ramin Fatehi, says having Griff on their team is another resource in getting to the truth which is the whole point of the justice system.

“It’s totally common to see people lock up, shut down, become emotionally detached, not be able to talk about the terrible things they’ve seen or the terrible things they’ve experienced. To have a dog there, a non-threatening friendly presence allows them to open up,” said Fatehi.

Just as the ocean is Griff’s safe space to run free, soon it’ll be his presence that will create that same environment for children and adults as they face some of life’s biggest trials.