Make no bones about it…it’s doggone awesome what ECCAC’s therapy dogs do for the kids
Step into the world of a therapy dog. They say a dog is man’s best friend, but in this case it’s a matter of numerous dogs being many kids’ best friends. Meet the trained therapy dogs and their owner/handlers who help kids at both Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.
Jacqui Broadus, a Mental Health Therapist with ECCAC, and a Registered Pet Partners Therapist at the center, took the lead in pet therapy programs beginning in 2010. That’s when she brought Riley, an adorable Maltese, who is also a Registered Pet Partner, to ECCAC in Niceville to work with the kids.
Flash forward to 2018. From rescue dogs, to championship AKC competition dogs, there are now nine trained therapy dogs, along with their owners, who make regular volunteer visits each week to kids at both the Niceville center, and the Pierce Family Children’s Advocacy Center in DeFuniak Springs. The therapy dogs and their owners have completed various training programs to ensure a positive experience with the kids receiving services at both centers. Along with many attaining AKC Good Citizenship Training, most are also members of People and Animals Lending Support (PALS), and are registered owner/pet teams with Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) and the Therapy Patient Connections (TPC) local affiliate ITA group. As well, the therapy dogs have a required $2 million liability insurance policy.
“The therapy dogs and their owners just absolutely warm my heart,” said ECCAC CEO Julie Hurst-Porterfield. “When Jacqui Broadus brought Riley into the lives of ECCAC children, little did she know she would help create a legacy and new world of hope for children. On behalf of ECCAC, we thank the handler/owners and their dogs for their invaluable work and time spent with the kids. And, amazingly, it is all a volunteer effort by these dedicated people and their dogs.”