The newest member of The Children’s Center of Medina County staff brings rigorous training, a friendly attitude, and an unwavering commitment to service to her role. She is also just twenty months old and covered with fur.
Cully is a sweet dog who loves extra cuddles. The black lab will provide a valuable service for child abuse and neglect victims and their families in Medina County. She will meet with young victims of abuse and neglect from across the county at The Children’s Center as the heart of a newly implemented therapy initiative shown to lessen victim anxiety and improve the outcomes of investigations.
When Executive Director Ashley Krause joined The Children’s Center this July, she had a vision for adding a therapy dog to the Child Advocacy Center based on her experience at the Geauga County Child Advocacy Program. “I can tell you firsthand, to witness the positive impact a canine advocate has on a child’s life is truly so inspiring,” says Krause.
She began working with the 1 Fur 1 Foundation early in the fall. The 1 Fur 1 Foundation is a 100% volunteer-driven 501(c)(3) charity on a mission to create, nurture and expand therapeutic programs in the USA. So far they’ve been able to provide over 45,000 children and seniors with disabilities with animal-assisted therapy and activities free of charge. Through the Foundation, she was connected with Dan Cojanu, the Coordinator of the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP) of Care House of Oakland County in Pontiac, Michigan. The Canine Advocacy Program has helped dogs trained by Leader Dogs for the Blind transition to careers working in courtrooms and Child Advocacy Centers across Michigan. The dogs help children feel safe and reduce their anxiety.
“It takes one spark to make a connection with an animal and change a person’s life,” said Michelle Djonova, 1fur1.org Founder. “We’re so proud and excited for Cully to start working at The Children’s Center of Medina County as the first official canine advocate helping children and their families overcome traumatic events. She is highly trained and we have no doubt about the impact she will make in Ohio. 1 FUR 1 Foundation and CAP have been working together for years on growing this program in the hopes that one day, it can help child victims beyond Michigan’s state borders. This is a huge step for us in achieving this goal and laying the foundation for national reach.”
Cully was raised by volunteers with Leader Dogs for the Blind, a Michigan nonprofit that empowers people who are blind or visually impaired with lifelong skills for safe and independent daily travel. She was career transitioned to become a Canine Advocate because she did not want to wear a harness, a requirement to be a leader dog for the blind. Cully has successfully completed an intensive training program and responds to over forty commands.
“On behalf of all the canine advocates in the Canine Advocacy Program, welcome to the pack Cully!” said Dan Conjanu. “CAP is thrilled our neighbors in Ohio are proactive in bringing this program to the children of Medina County who need the support only a canine can provide. We are proud to partner with The Children’s Center of Medina County.”
Krause drove to Michigan to pick up Cully in mid-December. Cully will live with Krause, while both Krause and Family Advocate Ellysa Paras will be her handlers in the office. Last week, Dan Cojanu traveled to Ohio for a day-long training session with both handlers at The Children’s Center. Krause expects Cully to start working with children and families by mid-January.
Cully will provide comfort to families and children while they are receiving services at the Child Advocacy Center. An additional benefit of having Cully in the office is her ability to help staff and partners with secondary trauma from the cases they are handling.
“The unconditional comfort Cully will provide in high-stress situations is a sense of security and love that is one-of-a-kind,” said Krause. “Interacting and bonding with a canine advocate is such an amazing benefit here at The Children’s Center as we continue to meet our mission to provide a pathway to healing for children and families impacted by abuse, neglect, and exploitation. I am so excited to see the amazing work Cully will do, and am looking forward to her being a part of our team!”
There are costs for Cully’s regular grooming, veterinary care, insurance, food, toys, and supplies. The Children’s Center is grateful to announce local sponsorships for the Canine Advocacy Program. Bil-Jac Food, Inc. has committed to providing Cully’s food. Dr. Erin Kalo at the Hinckley Animal Hospital is donating routine veterinary services. Chelsey from Doggie Harmony of Hinckley has volunteered her grooming services to make sure Cully is shiny and bright and well-manicured for children and families. Those interested in making a donation to help with costs can visit The Children’s Center of Medina County’s website at www.medinacountychildrenscenter.org/donate