WOLFEBORO — The Child Advocacy Center of Carroll County’s newest staff member is furry, friendly, and loves children.
Westin, a two-year-old golden retriever, joined the Center’s Child Protection Team last week where as as a therapy dog he will interact with the children and their caregivers.
Child Advocacy Center of Carroll County Executive Director Elizabeth Kelley worked with Dot Hyde-Williams, trainer and founder of Assistance Canine Training Services in Tuftonborough, to obtain a therapy dog for the center.
“This is something we’ve always wanted to do. The kids that come into the center need some comfort. A dog can provide the type of comfort people can’t,” said Kelley.
The Child Advocacy Center of Carroll County is a public/private partnership. According to its web site, carrollcountycac.com, the center is a a 501(c)3 non-profit charity, which embraces a coordinated, comprehensive and systematic approach to deal with issues associated with child abuse. The Center represents both a place and a process designed to provide child victims and their non-offending family members with resources and advocacy efforts.
The “process” utilizes a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team approach, known as the Carroll County Child Protection Team, to support the investigation and prosecution of crimes against Carroll County’s children.
Westin is now a part of that Child Protection Team — and a member of Kelley’s family. He greets and interacts with children and families at the center, where his loving nature puts traumatized children at ease.
“He loves people and he loves kids. He is really gentle with them. He has empathy,” Kelley said.
Hyde-Williams said Westin has been in training with her since he was eight weeks old. He was selected for the CCCAC job due to his gentle, loving nature.
“We had him in training and it became obvious — he never met a person or a child he didn’t like. His attitude is, ’I never met you but I love you.’ And he really loves children,” said Hyde-Williams. Characteristics of a good therapy dog include basic training skills for obedience, good manners at home and in the workplace, and a calm and confident demeanor, she adds.Kenney said the center received some funding for Westin through the Bald Peak Charitable Foundation and other donations. Since beginning work last week, she said Westin is fitting in well.
“He has a calming presence,” she said. She said before child advocacy centers were established, children who were the victims of physical or sexual abuse were required to go to a police station and were “treated like victims of any other crime.” Headquartered in Wolfeboro at 56 Union St., the CCCAC is located in a cozy cottage, furnished like a family living room, with comfortable, private spaces for interviews.
“Just having the kids walk into our space here, they feel a bit of relief. This is a warm, friendly place where they can be safe, and the dog puts them at ease,” said Kenney. “We’re pretty excited to have him,” she added.