A PAW TO HOLD: Dog brings comfort to children during hard times

Posted by: swright 5 years, 8 months ago

Through Southmountain Children and Family Services, local kids now have a new four-legged friend to lend them a comforting paw during difficult times.

Leroy, a 2-year-old, golden retriever/Labrador mix, is Southmountain’s new facility dog that was trained by Canine Companions for Independence. Leroy will be working in our Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) with Rhonda Robins, a victim advocate; and they will regularly visit The Gingerbread House in Burke County and Lily’s Place in McDowell County. “Our CACs will be the first in North Carolina to use a facility dog”, said Director Chris Jernigan.

When a child has allegedly been abused, a trained professional conducts a forensic interview with the child at the CAC. During this interview, a child is faced with the stressful situation of reliving their abuse and they can really struggle to tell their story. “The dog makes it a little easier, especially for teenagers, and Leroy is now there to help ease their minds. He can help them relax and have fun, or he can just be a comforting fur coat for them to stroke and focus on as they tell their story to an interviewer”, Rhonda said. “Leroy also will be able to accompany children in court, huddling with them in the witness stand or even sitting in front of them as they tell their story”, Rhonda said.

Rhonda began bringing Leroy into the local advocacy centers around Valentine’s Day, and so far, she already has seen an immense response from the children. Having the dog around seems to change the entire demeanor of the child. Welcome Leroy!