GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Children’s Advocacy Center has a new dog on the premises that will comfort victims of sexual abuse.
The golden retriever named Bacon joined the staff in March and has been preparing to work with clients.
Marcia Van Soelen is the dog trainer and family advocate with the non-profit organization.
“Bacon’s role here as a facility dog is to provide support and comfort to children who come here to disclose abuse,” Van Soelen said.
Bacon was trained by PAWS with cause, a Wayland-based organization that specializes in providing assistance dogs. The program placed its first dog at the facility in 2019 and has trained a total of 26.
PAWS With a Cause gave each dog in Bacon’s litter a name related to their breakfast food.
Bacon will replace the current facility dog, who will be moving out of the area with his handler. Van Soelen trained with him before working with Bacon and saw the impact animals can have.
“It’s hard for them not to smile or not feel those happy feelings, so it can provide a sense of calm and comfort for kids when they come in and talk about really difficult things,” Van Soelen said.
Bacon is almost 20 months old, according to Alexis Bolo of PAWS With a Cause.
“We chose dogs like Bacon who have a personality that is meant to be very social,” Bolo said. “Bacon’s role is to help a facility or a larger group of people rather than an assistance dog helping an individual person.”
The training is not as extensive as it is for a therapy dog. The focus is on mastering basic commands and temperament.
“We go through a puppy breeding program, so we have people who help our dogs, raise them for about a year, and then they go into a prison program where they get five months of additional training,” Bolo said.
Dogs complete an additional eight to 12 weeks of training once they are assigned to an organization. PAWS With a Cause says demand for the facility’s dog program has increased.
“We just recognized that through the pandemic and just the different stressors that our community is going through years, dogs are needed in facilities in more areas,” Bolo said.