Poppy, a four-month-old red fox lab, and her caretaker, Bree Cooper, stroll through the halls of Hope Center Indy (HCI) stopping to visit with residents and staff as they go.
Earlier this year, HCI opened a K-9 training barn, which is used in part by Jordan’s Detection K-9. In addition, the barn is used for what is currently being called a PUPS (Paws Unleashing Potential) Program to raise puppies that will eventually become service, emotional support or detection dogs. Poppy is one of the first dogs to be a part of the PUPS Program. Once she reaches a year old, she will receive formal training, but until then, she’s part of a new opportunity, a dog training class, for sex trafficking survivors in the Take Heart Residential program.
The six-week dog training course is taught by Sally Irvin, founder of the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, an organization that trains service dogs. Sally is teaching the residents how to interact and command Poppy and several adult dogs from Jordan’s Detection K-9.
“We’ve been wanting to integrate the residents and give them opportunities to work with dogs,” says Bree. “The residents are learning a lot of transferable communication skills through this. Eventually we’d like to do a dog grooming class. Maybe even a vet tech program in the distant future.”
Outside of class, Poppy comforts and calms the residents.
“Sometimes, if something has happened and a resident is upset, the case managers or the residential technicians will call me and say, hey can you bring Poppy for a couple minutes. I’ll take Poppy in and she’ll play or cuddle with them.”
Bree notes that Poppy has known the needs of the residents since day one.
“When we picked Poppy out, the breeder who donated her brought three dogs, and we tested them all. They were all really good, so we were having a hard time picking. But when the residents came in to meet the three dogs, the two other dogs were just playing. Poppy however, went up and curled up on the laps of the residents.”
Poppy is a huge blessing to the Take Heart residents as they navigate their trauma and rebuild their lives. HCI has a goal of raising $1,000 to cover Poppy’s financial needs of vet bills, flea/heartworm medication, dog food, and other expenses that may arise.
If you would like to make a donation to help with these expenses, go to https://www.hopecenterindy.org/give. When filling out the donation form, you will see a box that says “Specific Gift.” In that box, you can choose the option, “Dog Sponsor.”