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Jackson, a Labrador, helps comfort young abuse victims

Jackson and his handler, Cheri Johnson

Jackson and his handler, Cheri Johnson

Will County investigators are enlisting the help of a three-year-old yellow Labrador to help put young victims of abuse at ease as they talk about their predators.

Jackson, a therapy dog, greets children at the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center and then sits with them in a family room as they wait to be interviewed. When they are done being interviewed by an investigator, Jackson is there to greet them once again.

For the past two weeks, Jackson and his handler, Cheri Johnson, have been visiting the Children’s Advocacy Center. Jackson is part of the new Paws 4 Kids program launched by Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow for young abuse victims and their families interviewed at the advocacy center.

“The children who require the center’s services are struggling through the most upsetting and painful ordeal in their young lives,” said Glasgow, who also has two dogs. “A Paws Pal like Jackson can help ease the stress and provide some much needed comfort to these vulnerable young victims as well as their family members.”

Johnson offered up her dog, who was already a certified therapy dog and visiting an area hospital, when she heard that the state’s attorney’s office wanted to start the program.

“It’s gone really well,” said Johnson, who also is Glasgow’s executive assistant. “The kids seem to respond well to him.”

Prior to the program, children would wait in a family room area while their parents or guardians were interviewed. Oftentimes, the wait would make children nervous. Jackson helps put them at ease.

“He takes their mind off it,” said Jaclyn Lundquist, a child forensic interviewer for the Children’s Advocacy Center.

The center does about eight or nine child interviews a week. Children range in age from 3 to 17. Parents and children are asked prior to the interview if they would like a therapy dog present.

Lundquist said interviews have gone better as children come in a little more relaxed after spending a few minutes with Jackson.

“When you have a child who is relaxed in the beginning the interview is going to go better,” she said.

During Thursday’s open house, another area resident offered her dog, also a certified therapy dog, for the program. Glasgow hopes others will step forward to participate in the program.

For additional information about the program, call the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center at (815)774-4565.

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