September 16, 2013
A Fluvanna County woman is helping dogs and humans all at the same time. In this week's Stephanie's Heroes, CBS19's Stephanie Satchell is featuring Erika Proctor who's using her dog rescue Green Dogs Unleashed to help animals and people in the community.
To say Erika Proctor loves dogs is an understatement. In fact, much of her life revolves around her furry friends and her rescue Green Dogs Unleashed.
For 13 years, she's been taking in dogs with special needs.
"It's a remarkable transition from scared, shy shelter dog to outgoing loving, full of life," said Erika Proctor, Animal Behavioral Specialist, Green Dogs Unleashed.
Some of the animals are blind others are hearing impaired and a few are amputees.
"Our goal for them is to work with individuals especially children that have a very similar different ability," said Proctor.
Going out on visits doesn't happen right away. These dogs have to go through intense training and that starts in the classroom.
"They all go through basic obedience so they've got "sit" and "down" and "stay" and then we put them through a 6-8 week therapy dog program where we have classes here and we go out into the community for field trips," said Proctor.
If a dog does well with training and passes an evaluation, they're invited to be a part of the therapy team. The team often visits seniors in assisted living facilities and young students at school with special needs.
"The kids just light up. They see that the dog is able to overcome what's different about them and it makes them no less of a dog and they're able to connect with them on that level," said Proctor.
Not only does this program benefit humans, it's been a life-saving experience for the rescued canines.
"Until recently, many of these dogs would have been euthanized in shelters. There wasn't a lot of knowledge that deaf and blind dogs could be rehabilitated or make good family pets and they absolutely can," said Proctor.
Thanks to Erika Proctor and her many volunteers, dozens of dogs have been rescued and are now bringing smiles to the faces of many in the community.