Facility Dog

Facility Dog Pedro: An Extraordinary Dog for an Extraordinary Purpose

Kristi House’s search for a dog took far longer than we expected and stretched well beyond Miami. Our quest landed us hundreds of miles away at Providence Animal Center where we found our dog destined to fulfill an extraordinary purpose in life.

Our agency had been learning about the tremendous benefits of therapy dogs and facility dogs serving increasingly in health care settings, courtrooms and in other non-traditional venues for support and emotional healing from trauma. With an eager dog-loving staff and seed funding from our local Children’s Trust, we were ready for a Facility Dog.

We just needed one who was friendly, tolerant, loving, well-behaved and obedient. A dog that loved kids and adults alike, males and females, trained or trainable, not too big/not too little, not intimidating looking. The list of qualifications was necessarily extensive given the sensitive nature of our work healing child-victims of sexual abuse.

The search was on. Several staff members brought their dogs in to audition for the role, but none quite checked all the boxes. Too sleepy. Too scary-looking due to size. Too rambunctious. Too prone to yappy barking.

Staff visited local shelters with an experienced trainer in tow who served as talent scout, able to pinpoint possible canine candidates with minimal observation and interaction. One or two got on-site tests, but sadly didn’t cut it.

Then one day, board member Richard Lichter and his Charity for Dogs organization identified an adorable, one-year-old Labrador mix. Pedro had his own story of overcoming trauma, having nearly been euthanized after contracting parvovirus. Providence Animal Center acted quickly by enrolling him into the medical program at Penn Vet, where he received life-saving treatment.

Our CEO Amanda Altman and Dog Handler-To-Be Gina Santibañez traveled to Pennsylvania in February 2020 to meet Pedro in-person. It was love at first sight.

Pedro after receiving parvovirus treatment from Penn Vet. Pedro's life-saving treatment was funded by Richard Lichter Charity for Dogs.
Board Member Richard Lichter and his golden retriever Fantine with Kristi House staff member, Lara.
Kristi House Dog-Handler Gina and CEO Amanda adopting Pedro from Providence Animal Center in Pennsylvania!

Children overcoming horrendous abuse and trauma require expert care for their healing. Kristi House Therapists work to establish a strong, trusting relationship with each child-victim, necessary before a child can tell the very personal and intimate story of what happened to them, and cope with the aftermath of their experience. Pedro’s role is to provide a calming effect, which makes therapy less threatening and facilitates rapport. When children who are nervous, withdrawn, lonely or isolated are able to relax and feel more trusting, they are able to engage in therapeutic interventions. Pedro serves to help lessen a child’s suffering, and speed recovery from the trauma of abuse.

Just like these children, Pedro needed the highest level of care in his time of crisis. Now Pedro is paying it forward. After adoption, Pedro began training incredibly hard for his new role at Kristi House. When the pandemic forced us to quickly transition to telehealth, Pedro pivoted to on-call service for virtual visits to the children. Now, with our gradual reopening, Pedro is on site giving clients and staff alike the comfort and emotional support they need during these challenging times. He is fulfilling his extraordinary calling.

Pedro with Dog-Handler and Development Officer Gina Santibañez outside of Kristi House.

Pedro at Work

Pedro's Pals

Kristi House staff members ensure Pedro has many fur & feather friends… 🙂

Hi, Fur & Feather Friends(s)! We’re happy you’re here. If you made it this far you’re already part of Pedro’s Pals but to make it official email LCarter@kristihouse.org with your name and headshot.

With cuddles and love,

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