JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — To help survivors of sexual assault, their families and the first responders who help them, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville (WCJ) is welcoming a new team member onboard.
Helping make this possible, K9s For Warriors is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month by donating Hero, a retired service dog, to the WCJ.
Hero will be of additional support, working alongside the traditional therapies practiced at the WCJ as well as helping to relieve stress and anxiety some survivors may feel when working through what happened to them. Hero has been described as having a high level of emotional intelligence. He will work within WCJ programs to detect when someone is experiencing painful emotions. Hero will then help to stabilize these emotions.
“We are thrilled to have Hero join us,” Teresa Miles, executive director of the WCJ, said. “We know that many survivors can really struggle when working through the emotions they are left with in the aftermath of trauma.”
Miles is also Hero’s primary handler, and K9s For Warriors has been helping to train other staff to be secondary handlers.
“Hero is settling in very well, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much support he is already bringing to staff,” Miles said. “Clearly, the intention behind getting a therapy dog was primarily for clients, but I can already see the role he’ll play in supporting the team who support survivors and hear about trauma all day long.”
Hero is a yellow Labrador retriever who was donated to WCJ by K9s for Warriors. He is an American Kennel Club recognized therapy dog. As part of the nonprofit’s mission to end veteran suicide through the use of service dogs, K9s For Warriors also collaborates with first responder agencies and organizations that work closely to provide certified therapy dogs through its nationwide Station Dog Program.
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“Hero’s extensive training and experience make him the perfect companion to bring comfort to staff and survivors at WCJ as well as law enforcement officers who work with them daily,” Carl Cricco, CEO of K9s For Warriors, said. “Having served as a full-fledged Service Dog, Hero provided unwavering support and companionship to his Warrior for years. We are confident Hero’s presence will be a positive influence on those that need it most and are honored that his good work will continue to impact additional lives in our community.”