By Liz Thacker, Strong Women Strong Futures Navigator
One early Monday morning in June, I walked into the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands for my initial visit with the organization. As I sat in their conference room talking and getting to know their executive director Kellie and forensic interviewer Sonni, I heard a random clicking sound. I must have had an inquisitive face, as Sonni immediately smiles and says Lucia is coming for a visit. Lucia? I turn around and this beautiful yellow lab comes walking in wagging her tail and dragging her leash behind her (the source of the clicking noise). Lucia’s gentle, easy-going spirit instantly brought a calmness and smile to my face. I had to know more about this amazing employee and her role at the Center.
Children’s Center first learned about facility dogs after hearing many amazing stories about the difference being made through a facility dog from the Cookeville Children’s Advocacy Center, so they decided this was a must to go on their wish list. Through a grant given by Canine Companions, the Children’s Center was able to go down and be matched with Lucia.
Lucia, a seven-year-old golden lab, started her service in the fall of 2017 as the first working facility dog in all East Tennessee. Currently there are four working facility dogs housed in child advocacy centers in East Tennessee, with two of them residing in the 8th Judicial District, which covers Claiborne, Fentress, Scott, Campbell and Union counties. These highly trained facility dogs are allowed into forensic interviews with child victims of sexual and physical abuse. If a prosecutor decides to move a case forward, Lucia accompanies the victim every step of the way, including sitting with them if they must testify at a trial. The services that Lucia is able to provide to child victims is made possible through her training she received from Canine Companions.
When Lucia is not sitting in on forensic interviews, she is in training to be a spokesperson for the network. She wants to help in the mission of bringing about awareness of post-secondary education to young women and girls. As part of this work, Lucia posed for a picture to accompany a social media post stating: “Post-secondary education was and is important to Lucia too! She had to complete and graduate advanced training in order to do her job and make a difference at the Children’s Center…..What do you want your future to look like? What difference do you want to make? Continuing your education after school can help put those goals within your reach!! To learn more visit www.strongwomentn.org.”
Learn more about Lucia and her counterpart in the 8th Judicial Court Orville in Facility Dogs: A Game Changer.