While COVID-19 continues to alter everyday life, it’s not only humans who have to adjust to a new normal. Countless professionals have transitioned to working from home, and among them is a five-year-old Labrador Retriever named Jordon. As a Certified Facility Dog with two years of professional training, Jordon is an essential part of the team at Kids House Children’s Advocacy Center in Seminole County, Florida.
The stay-at-home order prevents Jordon from meeting with kids in person, but it hasn’t stopped the hardworking dog from doing her job. Jordon is currently working remotely to bring her special kind of healing and support to the kids who need her most.
Kids House is a place where child abuse victims and their families find much-needed support and healing. The children’s advocacy center offers several child services including child protection, medical trauma support, and mental health services. Above all, their mission is to prevent child abuse and protect kids.
Denise Conus, Jordon’s handler and Mental Health Program Director at Kids House, told BarkSpot that Jordon is involved with all of the Kids House programs. Most of Jordon’s time, however, is spent with children receiving trauma therapy. These are kids of all ages who have suffered both physically and emotionally. Research shows that child abuse and neglect can lead to psychological damage. Kids House offers trauma therapy to help children cope with and heal the unseen injuries caused by their experiences.
Helping Kids Who Need Her Most
For many of these kids, Jordon is an important part of their therapy sessions. As a Certified Facility Dog, Jordon is specially trained to work in a therapeutic setting. Denise told us that in a normal session, Jordon has several responsibilities.
First, her calming presence is enough to set the mood and ease anxiety. Denise says that many children describe Jordon as helping them feel safe, calm, and happy.
Besides being a general stress relief, Jordon also takes part in structured activities designed to directly support specific therapeutic goals. Denise said,
“One of the things we know about dogs is they can help kids work on trauma because they are a ‘sensory intervention.’ Jordon can provide a positive sensory experience that can replace negative memories of abuse that also had a sensory impact.”
One of these activities involves Jordon lying across a child’s lap. Denise encourages the child to pet the dog while taking deep breaths and describing how Jordon feels. They’re encouraged to think about all of their senses while taking note of how Jordon’s fur feels, how she smells, and how warm she is.
A Certified Facility Dog Working Virtually
When COVID-19 hit, the Kids House team had to adjust the usual way they work with kids. To protect the kids and the staff, they started transitioning many of their essential services to the virtual realm. This, of course, includes sessions with Jordon.
For many of the children involved with Kids House, Jordon has been an important part of their lives. They look forward to seeing her on a regular basis. For many kids, Jordon provides the kind of unconditional love they never found in their own homes. Unwilling to take that away from them, Kids House worked out a way to allow Jordon to work remotely.
“Them being able to see Jordon provides a sense of normalcy and comfort—they get to see for themselves that she is is okay.”
During these virtual therapy sessions, Jordon continues to provide comfort and support. The kids can’t physically pet her, but they hold their own stuffed animals and visualize themselves petting the real Jordon. The camera focuses on Denise’s hand petting Jordon’s fur, and the sessions continue much the same as they would in person.
As another way for Jordon to help kids, Kids House has also arranged “virtual walks.” Denise uses her phone to take video of Jordon going on a walk and virtually joins a child’s session with a therapist. This allows the child to see their favorite dog and feel involved with what she’s up to.
“For children who were used to walking with her as part of therapy, it’s an activity they are familiar with when everything around them is different and confusing.”
Making A Difference
Denise is extremely passionate about the work she and Jordon accomplish together. Jordon was purpose-bred and service-trained by Canine Companions for Independence. She was also provided to Denise free of charge so that she could make a real difference to the vulnerable children at Kids House.
Reports are starting to show that the nationwide quarantine could tragically lead to an increased number of child abuse cases. Support Kids House and their important mission to end violence against children by visiting their website.
And you can also learn more about Jordon’s work as a Certified Facility Dog by following her on Facebook!
All images via Facebook/Jordon’s Journal
Ready for more good news? Read about the great things happening at this Chicago animal shelter during the COVID-19 crisis. Click here for the article.