Generally, when a child has to go to the Warren County Children’s Advocacy Center, circumstances are bad.
Ask this child to speak about traumatic events that they have experienced.
To support these children – and the people who need to hear their stories – the CAC has a tiger in its corner. Tiger, a 6 year old black Labrador Retriever, is a facility dog.
He’s been on the team since this week. He had a week to adjust after moving into his new home with Melissa McLean, Executive Director of CAC.
This week, Tiger is spending time at the CAC to familiarize himself with his new work environment.
“We’ll take him to the courthouse next week with permission.” said McLean.
Its job is to provide support and comfort in “Any situation in which a child could suffer a trauma”, She said.
This can be the forensic interview at the CAC or the testimony in court.
Tiger will not attend every forensic interview or testimony. For some children, the presence of tiger would not be comforting – if they are afraid of dogs or are very allergic.
He is expected to be of at least a little help for the rest.
Children can look at it, touch it, talk to it, or ignore it but know it is there.
“He has a tough job” Bob Willman of White Cane Coffee said. “His job is to be petted.”
Tiger has been trained – in fact, he’s overqualified. “Tiger is a fully trained guide dog” said McLean. “He and his person were a certified team. It was separated from its previous owner through no fault of its own. “
“The majority of dogs in facilities are guide dogs that are dropping out.” She said.
Willman said that only about 1 in 6 dogs graduate as guide dogs.
Just having a dog – let alone one that has been specially trained as a tiger – in the CAC makes the room more like a home – a positive note for children who are already going through traumatic events.
Tiger is expected to tolerate some level of rough treatment – pulling the ears or tail won’t do much – and must be able to be calm and quiet. When he’s on trial to support a testifying child, it is ideal for a jury to go unnoticed.
During most of the interviews about Tiger, he sat or lay in silence on the CAC living room floor.
“We really hope that he will fit in here and help a lot of children,” he said. said Erin Willman of White Cane Coffee.
It won’t just be kids.
Adults – law enforcement officers, social workers, child and youth workers, CAC directors – who hear firsthand the trauma children have been through often experience secondary trauma.
McLean said she expects tiger to be good for her mental health. “I often think of the law enforcement officers, children and youth, the social workers” She said. “We sometimes forget that these helpers need help.”
Tiger doesn’t care who he helps, but he’s primarily there for children.
The process of adding a facility dog to the staff was a tedious one. Hooktown Holidays ran a successful community effort to raise the necessary funds.
“Hooktown Holidays was very instrumental in raising funds,” said McLean.
With the money in hand, it was time to find the right fit.
“I don’t have the capacity here to check these places.” said McLean.
Enter White Cane Coffee and the White Cane Coffee Foundation. The CAC and White Cane had worked together for years.
“Bob speaks both languages” She said.
“We know the people” said Bob Willmann. “We can help make this union easier.”
McLean spoke to Willman about two weeks ago, she said. “I was just about to buy my iced coffee… on a Monday. Bob called me on Wednesday and said, “I have a few positions that are interested in working with you.”
The next day one of these places called. “She said, ‘When can you pick him up? Can you pick it up tomorrow? “
That was going too fast, McLean didn’t make it until the next day.
“I’ve been looking for so long” She said. “I’m shocked that the match was found as quickly as it was.”
“The rapid turnaround has frightened us all” said McLean. “It seemed like the perfect fit. Tiger needed a job. We needed a tiger. “
After all, Tiger will wear a special vest when working.
This vest is supposed to tell people that Tiger is working.
“You see a dog with a vest – that’s a businessman”, said Erin Willmann. “You don’t go up to a businessman and tell him what a good job he is doing.”
If he’s not wearing the vest, he’s just another dog.
“During the day we have playing times” said McLean. “We’re going to take it out as part of our daily routines. He’ll take regular walks during the day – he’s great for the staff’s wellness program. “
“When he is at home, he is a completely normal dog” She said.
Times Observer photo of Brian Ferry Tiger – the 6-year-old Labrador Retriever who is the new facility dog at the Warren County Children’s Advocacy Center – lies at the feet of a visitor in the living room of the CAC.
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