JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow was pleased this week to present a medal of service to Jackson, the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center’s first therapy dog, on behalf of the Stone City Kennel Club.
State’s Attorney Glasgow presented the medal to Jackson and his owner Cheri Johnson during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at Lincoln-Way Central High School. The Stone City Kennel Club hosted the ceremony, “For Those Who Serve,” to recognize 14 dogs that assist the Will County community in various capacities. Therapy dogs, leader dogs, search and rescue dogs and assistance dogs for those with medical needs were among the canines honored Tuesday.
State’s Attorney Glasgow gladly placed the service medal around Jackson’s neck during the ceremony in recognition of his work comforting children at the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center. Johnson, who is the State’s Attorney’s administrative assistant, has been bringing Jackson to the center since early this year as part of the State’s Attorney’s new Paws 4 Kids pet therapy program.
Children come to the Center for victim senstive interviews when there are allegations of sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse. These interviews are conducted by trained and caring professionals and recorded in a neutral, non-suggestive, child-friendly environment. Glasgow established the Center in 1995 to improve the way these highly sensitive investigations are conducted. The interviews have been used to successfully prosecute literally hundreds of predators over the past 17 years.
Jackson is a 3-year-old, 63-pound Labrador Retriever that is licensed through Therapy Dog International. He welcomes children upon their arrival at the Children’s Advocacy Center, and he keeps them company while preparations are made for the interview. Jackson is not present when children are interviewed, but he stays to play with siblings and parents or caregivers while they wait for an interview to conclude. Jackson is also there to comfort children after interviews.
“I was thrilled to present this service award to both Jackson and Cheri for their compassionate work on behalf of vulnerable children who are struggling through the most traumatic time in their lives,” Glasgow said. “Jackson is a kind friend who comforts young victims and their families and helps us to obtain the truthful statements we need to put dangerous child predators behind bars.”
Johnson and her husband, Kurt Johnson, raise and train puppies for the Leader Dogs for the Blind organization. Jackson is their personal pet; he spent a great deal of time bringing joy and comfort to patients in local hospitals and nursing homes before beginning his work with the Children’s Advocacy Center.
Johnson makes Jackson available at no cost to taxpayers for all the petting, playing and hugging a child can squeeze in before and after a victim-senstive interview. Studies have shown that dogs and other pets can put people at ease during emotionally stressful situations.
Glasgow launched Paws 4 Kids because he knows first-hand about the happiness dogs bring to people’s lives. He and his family are the happy owners of Hobbs, a Great Dane the State’s Attorney named after Roy Hobbs in the movie, “The Natural.”
“PAWS 4 Kids celebrates the life-affirming bond between people and their pets,” he said. “Jackson’s presence at the Children’s Advocacy Center is the first step in the healing process for the victims of child abuse.”
The Stone City Kennel Club ceremony included a short video presentation called “Hero Dogs of 9/11.” It chronicled the impressive work performed by more than 300 service dogs on September 11, 2001 at Ground Zero. The President of the Stone City Kennel Club, Len Lundh, said that the club chose this important day to honor our community’s heroic canine companions and their handlers as well.