- Associated Press - Saturday, May 13, 2017

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Canine therapy is growing as a method used to help victims of abuse. During therapy sessions, victims can experience a calm and stress-free atmosphere.

The Wiregrass Angel House is one of the many organizations that offer the canine therapy program. The staff know first-hand the benefits Cole (the center’s canine) brings to people who utilize the service. That’s why they have agreed to reach out to the children who visit the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center.

“Cole is amazing with the children,” said Laura Bertagnolli of the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center. “Every child we see is a victim of abuse. They are scared and they are stressed when they come here. Cole helps them realize they are not alone. They have a friend right by their side throughout the entire interview, if they want him to be. When you see a child who is a victim of abuse, and you see their parents so upset about what their child has gone through — and then you hear a child laugh — it is amazing. The children are laughing because of Cole. He has given the child hope and their hope has given their parents hope. They realize everyone will make it through this situation. Laughter is an amazing thing.

“Cole has also brought joy to all of us here at the center as well. Our jobs can be stressful, and he has helped us to just stop and take a few minutes to laugh. He is really a blessing for us and the children,” Bertagnolli added.

According to Bertagnolli, Cole’s originally purpose was to be trained at Auburn University to be a member of the homeland security program However, that was not Cole’s calling. Helping children is his calling.

Tony Luker, the therapy director with Wiregrass Angel House, is a firm believer of the canine therapy program.

“Cole was donated to the Wiregrass Angel House to help those in our therapy sessions,” Luker said. “We realized just how beneficial he was to the victims, and we decided to reach out and allow others to benefit from his personality. He really is one of a kind.”

Cole visits the children at the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center at least three times a week.

“The bond Between Cole and the children is amazing,” Luker said. “He is really good at his job. “In some situations, Cole will also go into court with the victim. Of course, that approval must come from the judge. Cole also visits local senior centers and nursing homes. He does a fine job with the elderly. So many individuals just get a kick out of Cole. He makes them laugh and smile. That is what it is all about, seeing a need and helping those who have the need. I have heard comments from the elderly whom Cole has visited; they just enjoy his visits. Making a difference is Cole’s job and he is very good at his job.”

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