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Houston, a lovable and smart black Labrador Retriever, was donated to Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) from Guide Dogs for the Blind in September of 2023. As our trainers got to know him, it was clear he would excel in the Facility Dog Program at DBL. He dove into the training curriculum, mastering tasks like lap, settle, squish, touch, and visit. In February of 2024, he was ready for his career to begin.

A Perfect Match

Facility Dog Houston was placed with Tami, the Deputy Director at Douglas C.A.R.E.S in Roseburg, Oregon. In his first few months on the job, he has already become an integral part of the child advocacy center.

Tami’s experience and passion for using dogs to provide comfort and support to children made her an ideal partner for Houston. “I was inspired to apply for a facility dog because, having raised and trained dogs all of my life, I felt that a dog could provide support and comfort to a child without making the child feel as though they were being judged,” she shared.

“Having that comfort and support can mean the difference between a child feeling confident enough to tell their story or not. That warm friendly face that can accompany them through some of the challenging times a child can go through.”

Facility Dog Houston poses with Tami during placement week

When Houston and Tami first met, it was clear they were meant to work together. “When I first met Houston, he walked right up to me and crawled into my lap as if he had known me all of his life. I knew at that point that he would be perfect for our families,” Tami recalled.

Houston’s natural ability to connect with people made him an immediate favorite among the staff and the families they serve. His role at Douglas C.A.R.E.S is multifaceted, including accompanying Tami in forensic interviews, therapy sessions, client meetings, community educational events, and even supporting children while they testify in court.

Houston’s Impact

The impact of Houston’s presence has been profound. “Houston makes an impact on every person he meets. Houston has been a very valuable asset to not only the families we work with but also the staff at our agency,” Tami said. The emotional toll of dealing with child abuse cases can be overwhelming, and Houston provides a much-needed source of comfort and stability. “As we all know, child abuse is one of the most horrendous things that a child could ever be forced to endure. Listening to the trauma that has been inflicted on these children and families on a daily basis can be heart-wrenching and truly takes a toll on the mental health of our staff. Houston is always there for them to hug and talk to when we have had to work through a particularly hard case.”

Houston’s has also brought joy and playfulness into Tami’s home life, where he shares space with a wiener dog named Skudbutt and a variety of farm animals, including baby goats, adult goats, chickens, horses, alpacas, emus, and pigs.

“During our first few weeks together, Houston did not play at all, he simply wanted to be cuddled all the time. I was actually concerned that he did not know how to play and as everyone knows, everything needs to have time off to regroup on regular basis. Then one day, I had brought him home a new toy and he got so excited that jumped at me, put his butt in the air and was ready to play. I was like, ‘Who is this dog and what just happened?’”

For Tami and her team at Douglas C.A.R.E.S, Houston is more than just a dog; he is a vital part of their mission to support and heal children in crisis.

“To anyone considering a facility dog, I would highly recommend it. The comfort and support that Houston gives every person who enters our building is invaluable and would never be able to be provided by another individual,” Tami emphasized.

Facility Dog Houston snuggling with Tami during placement week.

She also expressed her gratitude to the puppy raisers who played a crucial role in preparing Houston for his life-changing work. “To the puppy raisers, what an excellent job you have done with Houston. And in general, always know that your success in raising and preparing Houston for his job here at Douglas Cares is observed and appreciated daily. Without puppy raisers, we as an agency would not have as big of an effect on the families who walk through our doors.”

Houston’s journey to becoming a beloved facility dog at Douglas C.A.R.E.S is a testament to the incredible bond between humans and animals and the profound impact that such relationships can have on those in need. As he continues to bring comfort and healing to children and families, Houston’s story serves as an inspiring example of the important work that Facility Dogs do.

Thank you to an Anonymous foundation and the James C. and Carol A. Kyle Fund and Whipple Foundation Fund through the Oregon Community Foundation for helping to make Houston’s placement possible with Douglas C.A.R.E.S.

Would your facility benefit from a highly trained Facility Dog? Visit dogsforbetterlives.org/facility-dogs to learn more about their work, and apply.

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