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Emmie the facility dog joins Family & Children’s Place staff

December 13, 2017

Specially trained Golden Doodle will help comfort, support children at agency’s child advocacy centers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 13, 2017) – Something awesome is always going on at Family & Children’s Place, but the agency has some PAWSome news to share! A very special new staff member – Emmie – facility dog for the agency’s child advocacy centers in Kentucky and Indiana!

Emmie is a specially trained – and she’s still in training, along with her handlers, Becky League and Shannon Wright – golden doodle that will offer comfort and love to children who visit the CACs who may have been physically or sexually abused.

Emmie’s not a pet, she’s staff. She works full 7½ -hour days at the CAC putting children and families at ease and helping them open up about difficult topics like physical or sexual abuse. It’s serious and important work, not play.

Adding a facility dog to the CAC has been a several year dream for Becky and everyone at the agency, and Emmie is possible through a generous gift from board member Bill Ehrig and his wife, Coleen, who paid to secure Emmie and for her training. Ehrig is the former vice president of government and international affairs for YUM! Brands.

Emmie is named after Mary Ellen McCormack (ME McCormack), the first child to win legal protection in a case in 1874 brought by the ASPCA, an animal rights group. The case was argued under animal protections laws because at the time there were no laws protecting children.

“The name seemed perfect for the pup and the mission,” Ehrig said. “We are delighted to be a part of her Family & Children’s Place family and excited by the amazing help and support she will provide to fragile and vulnerable children.”

Emmie will spend most of her time at the CACs, but she also will visit the agency’s Family Service Center and other offices. She comes with a few rules:

  • Emmie is a facility dog, not a therapy dog, for the CACS. As a facility dog, she has a broader scope than a therapy dog. She works and visits with more than the children, including staff, guests, visitors, and others.
  • Emmie still is in training. She travels with Becky to Frankfort and elsewhere regularly for specialized training.
  • Staff, visitors and guests are welcome to pet, hug, shake hands with Emmie when she is stationary – not moving – and she can always be made to stay still.
  • Emmie will be joining in forensic interviews, court appearances and medical exams as needed when she is fully trained.

Emmie was born in April in New York and received her initial training in the Paw in Order program at Roederer Correctional Institute near Louisville. Her current training regimen is provided by Pawsibilities Unleashed in Frankfort.

In training, Emmie will learn about 90 complex tasks, and she works with children and adults. Emmie learns patience, basic directions like sit, stay, etc., and she gets used to being touched in different ways, because, 9-year-old hands are different from 18-year-old hands. Her trainers and others pet her different ways, and they cuddle different ways, getting Emmie used to children and adults.

Emmie has already spent time with children, and loves the CAC courtyard, said Becky. “One child, a 15-year-old came in, very troubled. She lay down with Emmie and hugged her. We asked how she made her feel and she said, ‘She made me so happy’.”

Emmie is on Twitter as and on Instagram as

‘We’re very excited to have Emmie on staff,” said Pam Darnall, president and CEO of Family & Children’s Place, “and we’re looking for her to make a real difference for traumatized children. But as a furry ambassador for the agency, we also expect some doggone good times!”

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About Family & Children’s Place
Family & Children’s Place protects Kentuckiana children, families and communities from abuse, neglect and exploitation, and helps move them from hurting to healing.  We serve more than 6,000 children and families annually through trauma-informed and impact-evident services.  For more information about Family & Children’s Place, visit or call 502-893-3900.