Penny — Therapy

Location: Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

Penny’s story starts humbly, as a shelter dog, when she was adopted by the director of Crisis Center North, a domestic violence counseling center in Pittsburgh. One day, when coming to visit the Center with her owner, Penny’s destiny became clear. In the waiting room, a young boy stood dejected. He had faced abuse in his home and had been in counseling for months, but he would never open up. That changed when he saw Penny. He ran up to her, petting her, words flying from his mouth about how he didn’t like counseling and how it hurt him to talk about what had happened.

Penny stared at him with her kind eyes and listened. It was at this moment her owner had an idea: She told the boy that Penny loved counseling and asked if she could go with him for his session. The boy excitedly agreed, and after it was over, his counselor said that he had made more progress in that hour than he had before in six months. He had begun to heal. Penny had found her calling.

Since 2010, Penny, as a canine advocate, has impacted countless lives through animal assisted therapy for victims, as well as court work to help give victims the strength they need to confront their abusers and seek justice. Her work has been recognized state-wide and nationally as an innovative way to address trauma with victims of crime.

“When I think about how Penny started in a shelter, but ended up making such a difference, it gives me hope,” said one client. “If Penny can come so far, then I think I can too.”