By Cryss Walker

(CBS DETROIT) – A program that started to support children through the criminal justice system has expanded its services.

“The Canine Advocacy Program, which was started in 2010 and has come under the Care House umbrella in 2022, is really about providing comfort and safety and security, at least that feeling of comfort to children and adult victims of violence or abuse,” said CARE House President and CEO Blythe Tyler.

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CARE House of Oakland County is the first organization of its kind in Michigan, supporting children with trauma through Canine Advocates.

The organization now has its own dog, named Harper.

“Harper as a Canine Advocate is trained differently than maybe a therapy dog or a service dog,” Tyler said.

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“In the case of a service dog, they’re trained to assist one person, and so their training looks different. In terms of a therapy dog, a therapy dog has a lot less training than Harper. Harper, specifically, is trained to be loved, to be petted, to be calm and to have lots of people approach her.”

The program uses career-changing dogs with special training to help kids through anxious episodes like witness testimony and court appearances.

Currently, there are 31 dogs actively working throughout the state, with two at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office.

“It’s hard to be able to talk about things that are scary, traumatic experiences, and it’s hard to process those feelings and those thoughts. So, Harper just provides a little extra, a little extra level of support when kids need it,” Tyler said.

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