Paws-itive Reinforcement: Assistance dog providing comfort at Children’s Listening Place
PARKERSBURG — A four-legged friend is proving to be a valuable asset to the clients and staff of The Children’s Listening Place.
Creighton, an assistance dog, regularly visits the CLP with St. Marys resident Amanda Rubenstein.
“When the two of them come through the door, the entire mood changes for the better in the center,” said Greg Collins, executive director of the CLP.
The organization conducts forensic child interviews and family advocacy in cases of abuse, serious neglect and sexual abuse. Creighton, a 7-year-old golden retriever, interacts with kids before and after their interviews to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed.
“The children are able to read Creighton books, draw pictures based off her paw prints, watch TV with her or simply just be near her and pet her,” Rubenstein said. “She seems to make everyone feel more at ease during an extremely stressful and emotional time.”
Collins said the duo had been coming by occasionally, but it will now be a weekly occurrence.
“It’s such an effective tool for us,” he said.
Creighton is available to the center through the paws4people foundation, which was founded in 1999 with a mission of educating and empowering people to use therapy dogs to transform their lives, according to a release from the CLP. The foundation raises, trains and places assistance dogs with children, veterans, military dependents and civilians living with disabilities, providing certification, insurance and support for the client/dog team for the duration of their career.
Rubenstein became involved with the organization through her job with the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She became part of the Breeder Ambassador Program in 2015, which brought Creighton into her life.
“I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that paws4people has provided,” she said.
Rubenstein and Creighton visit schools and nursing homes and attend a variety of public events to raise awareness.
“One of our most meaningful connections is with the Children’s Listening Place,” she said.
And it’s not just the children who appreciate their presence.
“Their staff are some of the most dedicated people I have met, and they have such a demanding and stressful job. They truly care about each one of their clients,” Rubenstein said. “Creighton (is) also there to care for them. They are so excited to see her when she visits, and she absolutely loves spending time with them.”