At Small Talk, one of our primary goals is to provide hope and healing for children who have experienced trauma that often accompanies child sexual and physical abuse. As we have continued to grow, our staff and board began to explore the idea of adding a canine advocate to our team to help us accomplish this goal in a unique and powerful way.
The idea of a canine advocate is something that we tossed around for quite sometime. After meeting a canine advocate at a conference last spring, we decided it was time to do some sincere research. We began working with Dan Cojanu from the Canine Advocacy Program. Dan was a wealth of knowledge and was very eager to connect us with a dog who could help children heal. His program has placed advocate dogs all over the state of Michigan and we were hopeful to be next on that list. Mr. Cojanu brought another support dog, Amos, to Small Talk to visit our staff and explain the process of getting, maintaining, and training a canine advocate. After this presentation, we were sold. Two of our staff members, Ashley Vance and Aubree Vance, stepped up to be the primary and secondary handlers respectively for our soon-to-be new team member. Generous donations from the Sellari Family and Crime Victims Services paid for our future dog. Now all we had to do was wait for the call.
In September of 2016, Ashley got the call that there was a dog ready to join us. His name was Preston and he was a black lab, just over a year old. To say were were excited was an understatement. A few days later, Ashley went to meet him and bring him home. Shortly thereafter, Preston started coming in to work. The first few weeks he spent working exclusively with Ashley and Aubree, learning his commands, getting acclimated to our space, and getting better acquainted with his handlers.
While Preston was in training, we received an outpouring of incredible support from our community. Preuss Pets stepped up and became the sponsor for Preston's food every month, Doggy Daycare and Spa donated grooming and daycare, and the MSU Veterinary Medical Center donated Preston's primary medical care. This show of support is proof of our community's commitment to healing child survivors of trauma. We could not be more grateful.
A few weeks of training down and Preston was ready to meet children and families! In the relatively short time Preston has been interacting with our clients, we have already seen a tremendous impact. In one particular instance, Preston comforted a tearful child after a counseling session. He met this child in the lobby and he just instinctively knew what the child needed. He walked over to this child and set his head on the child's lap. He provided the kind of unconditional support that only a dog can provide and it was incredible to witness.
On December 12th, 2016, in the Honorable Judge Baird's courtroom, Preston was sworn in as an official canine advocate by former Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer. This also marked Preston's first day of courtroom training. In addition to being present when children come to Small Talk, Preston will be able to accompany children to court if they need to testify. He will help children feel safe and brave when they have to do something as difficult as testify in a courtroom.
Preston's journey at Small Talk has only just begun. In his short time with us, he has been an incredible gift. He inspires children to share, brings smiles to their faces, and puts hope in their hearts. A hero can be anyone, even a dog named Preston.
To provide a comfortable, child-friendly atmosphere where children receive coordinated services during the child abuse investigative process.
A state of the art center leading the community in addressing child abuse and empowering children to have the courage to heal.