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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Newest member of Scotty’s House lends a helping paw

Scottys+House
Photo by Provided
Scotty’s House

Sawyer is the facility dog at Scotty’s House, and his arrival this August marked the beginning of their new program, Paws for Hope.
Scotty’s House is the Brazos Valley nonprofit child advocacy center in Bryan which focuses on helping children who have gone through traumatic events, including severe physical abuse, sexual assault and involvement or witness to a violent crime. The new program is intended to help children feel more comfortable as they go through forensic interviews, counseling sessions or court testimony.
Cary Baker is the executive director of Scotty’s House and one of Sawyer’s handlers. Baker said she saw the benefits of a service dog at another child advocacy center and was inspired to do the same at Scotty’s House.
“Scotty’s House is always looking for ways to make children who’ve gone through trauma to be as comfortable as possible,” Baker said. “We wanted to bring more of that comfort with Sawyer.”
Forensic services supervisor Cameron Hines oversees and conducts interviews with the children at Scotty’s House. It can be intense for young clients to relive their experiences, so Hines often brings Sawyer into interviews to help relax them.
“When Sawyer is in there, it can be a nice distraction,” Hines said. “It can help them physically do something that is not just them and me sitting there and looking at each other and talking about this difficult thing.”
Hines recalled a time when a child was so nervous to talk that her hands were shaking. With Sawyer, Hines could see a positive shift in the girl’s attitude.
“The more that we kept talking and the more that she was petting him, the more you could visibly see her body relax,” Hines said.
The benefits of Sawyer extend from providing peace to children to promoting a bright environment for the staff members.
“As executive director, I’m lucky enough to be Sawyer’s handler,” Baker said. “I feel like that’s everyone’s dream to bring your dog to work and I get to do that with Sawyer.”
Sawyer was trained at the Canine Companions for Independence training center in Irving. Baker said after Scotty’s House applied for a facility dog, there was an extensive process in ensuring that Sawyer would make a good fit.
Denise Peterson is the director of clinical services at Scotty’s House as well as Sawyer’s other handler. She said both she and Baker spent an intensive two weeks of their own training in order to work with Sawyer.
“Not everyone has two handlers, but we do so that he’s available for different jobs and that he’s available for counseling,” Peterson said. “He’s a joy to have.”
Peterson said she hopes hopes interacting with Sawyer will help children move out of a place of distress so they leave Scotty’s House feeling less distraught than when they entered.
“Sawyer is a trailblazer for not just Scotty’s House but for other Children’s Advocacy Centers,” Peterson said. “Bringing Sawyer on board takes a lot of innovation and forward thinking, and I appreciate that our agency is willing to step out and look at different ways to benefit our clients’ needs.”

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