FLORENCE, S.C. – CARE House of the Pee Dee has a new employee, and this employee is a bit different from anyone else at the CARE House.
Known for his friendly tail wags, McGuffy, a yellow Lab, has joined the ranks of the staff as its Facility Dog.
CARE House of the Pee Dee is a child advocacy center at 360 N. Irby St. in Florence. A child advocacy center is a safe place where children and their families can come after a reported allegation of abuse to receive supportive services.
Many agencies work together as a team to investigate and support families. Each member of the team has been trained and has significant experience working with alleged victims of abuse. The whole purpose of a child advocacy center is to reduce trauma for children who are victims of abuse.
McGuffy is there for a comfort for children who come through the CARE House. He sits with children as they go through forensic interviews and counseling sessions. It is the hope of the CARE House that one day he will be allowed in court to sit with children while they give their testimony for alleged abuse cases.
A forensic interview is when a CARE House forensic interview specialist talks to the child while recording the conversation on behalf of the Department of Social Services and law enforcement. This prevents the child from having to repeat his or her story of abuse more than once. Forensic Interviews are an important part of an alleged child abuse case, as well as an important part of reducing the trauma of the child’s abuse.
“Our mission is to promote help, hope, and healing in a nurturing environment to child abuse victims and their families through supportive services and prevention,” said Megan Temple, CARE House executive director and McGuffy’s handler. “McGuffy fits right into our mission. The children that come through our doors love him, and McGuffy loves the attention.”
McGuffy came to the CARE House in May, but he had to go through training before that. McGuffy comes from an agency called Canine Companions for Independence. He went through a two-year training period. Temple also had to go through a two-week training to work with McGuffy.
McGuffy is trained as an assistance dog, which means he is expertly trained in completing tasks and avoiding distractions, and then he is partnered with working professionals in a setting like the CARE House.
Facility dogs, which is what McGuffy is, are highly sought after, and research demonstrates improved outcomes for children, such as a decrease in anxiety, a lessened sympathetic nervous system arousal, lowered heart rate and decrease in depression with the use of animal-assisted therapy. McGuffy greatly differs from a personal dog used in therapy. He came to CARE House with approximately 40 commands and was rigorously tested to ensure he remains docile and appropriate in all environments.
“The training was intense but so worth it,” Temple said. “McGuffy has been a wonderful addition to our team, and we can better serve the children of the community because of him.” When McGuffy is not in interviews or counseling sessions, he can be found sleeping on the rugs of various CARE House offices and generally just being a good boy. McGuffy lives with Temple, since she is his official handler.
For more information on McGuffy or if you would like to tour CARE House, call 843-629-0236.