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Just 10 years old, Laura* had been the victim of sexual and emotional abuse. Her difficult road to healing would take time and support, as well as the help of another specialist trained in such matters -- a dog!
After being removed from her unsafe home, Laura was placed in foster care, but the emotional scars from her ordeal were taking a toll. Her behavior suffered, and she was unable to function in a regular school, so she wound up in a mental health program. It was there that she met a therapy dog named Rigo and his handler, Diana -- a trained Pet Partners® team that would help Laura take her first step toward healing.
Animal-assisted therapy can provide the spark that helps children and adults recover from physical and emotional injury.
When Laura first saw the big, black dog, her eyes lit up. She was thrilled to make a new, furry friend. Over the weeks and months of Laura's counseling, her trust in Rigo and Diana grew steadily. And one day, a breakthrough occurred. With her arms wrapped around Rigo for comfort and security, Laura whispered in his ear, describing in graphic detail her horror of abuse.
Opening up about her experience opened the door to Laura's healing. During her year of working with her therapist and Pet Partners team, she learned how to build a healthy relationship with another being, how to feel safe and how to stay safe. Laura was able to re-enter public school and lead the type of life every child deserves. Soon after, she began preparing for adoption into a loving family.
The value of the human-animal bond is perhaps no more evident than in situations like Laura's. That's why American Humane has joined forces with Denver Pet Partners to provide direct services in animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities.
*This is a true story. The child's name has been changed for her privacy.