Therapy dog helps victims of domestic, sexual violence find their voice

Fonzie is only three years old, but he's already making a difference in people's lives.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:56 PM CDT
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HAYS, Kan. (KWCH) - A therapy dog in Hays is helping people through stressful situations. Fonzie, a golden doodle, has been trained to use buttons to communicate to help those in need. At only three years old, Fonzie is already making a difference in people’s lives.

“They’re very intelligent dogs,” said Jennifer Hecker, executive director of Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services. “They’re hypoallergenic, and they’re just very gentle dogs, very social dogs, and being with people is something you want a therapy dog to do.”

Hecker said she thinks therapy dogs are something every shelter needs.

“Therapy dogs are great for reducing stress. Particularly PTSD, depression, anxiety in children and adults,” she said.

Hecker said teaching these topics can be hard for people to talk about. Having Fonzie around play an important part in helping ease their fears.

“When patients come in and they’re nervous and scared, this is a great ice breaker,” said Hecker. “I’ve seen clients who have really struggled to tell us about their trauma, to just be able to sit and pet the dog and tell the dog how they felt.”

A new toy is helping Fonzie find his words. But like humans, Hecker said it can be difficult.

“We’re not always successful, sometimes we’re guessing what he says, but that’s true of real healthy relationships when you’re not understanding what the other person says, you dig deeper and ask for more information and that’s what we’re doing with the dog,” said Hecker.

Both - communication is key.

“I have no idea where this is going to take us, how many words he’ll learn, how many he’ll be able to say eventually, but I’m really curious to see where this little adventure takes us,” Hecker said.

Fonzie has only been “speaking” since December and already knows nine words. Hecker said he continues learning more every week.