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Therapy dog is going virtual to support kids

April 2, 2020

Despite the danger posed by COVID-19, Kids House in Seminole County continues to do their part for neglected and abused kids with help from a furry friend.

“Jordan is able to provide that unconditional love and connection that a lot of our kids have never had. She’s able to support them in ways that we as therapists can’t,” Ashleah Zigmond, mental health counselor for Kids House said. “Jordan is such a part of the therapeutic process.”

Jordan is a five-year-old labrador that helps Zigmond during therapy sessions for the kids but since the coronavirus pandemic, her unconditional love is given virtually.

“We’ll still be able to kind of connect with our kids and see them and provide them the support even if they can’t be here in the office with us,” Zigmond said.

As part of the session, kids use a stuffed animal to do sensory and breathing exercises just like they did with Jordan. Kids House says they’re already working on other ways Jordan can be of support to them.

“We’re actually continuing to look at new ways that we can involve her in the Telehealth. We’re gonna start taking some of our young ones on virtual tours with Jordan,” Denise Conus, mental health program director for Kids House said.

According to the children’s advocacy center, the pandemic has caused a rise in the number of cases.

“We’ve seen a marked increase in the referrals that are coming into Kids House over the last week,” Conus said. “We are concerned about our kids. They’re isolated, families are stressed.”

Conus says during the Telehealth video therapy sessions, they’re also lending support to caregivers. But it’s not just a stressful time for kids and they’re caregivers, staff members are also feeling the emotional impact of the global health crisis.

“Our staff here at Kids House are stressed, too because we’re worried about our kids,” Conus said.

And since the kids are no longer going to the facility in Sanford, Jordan, a certified facility dog from Canine Companions for Independence, is making sure staff gets her undivided attention.

“It’s not unusual for her to actually seek out someone that she thinks sounds worried or upset. Jordan has this way of figuring out who actually needs her,” Conus said.

For Jan Carlson, the medical trauma program director, the dog’s presence brings some relief during these troubling days.

“She’s an incredibly empathetic dog–to give her human quality and she’s really wonderful, it really destresses all of us to spend time with her,” Carlson said.

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