A Friend Like Iggy
A Friend Like Iggy
I didn’t know what to expect as I rode the elevator up to my first visit at the center. I sure didn’t expect a large black dog with a gentle face. But there was Iggy, sitting beside a smiling woman, waiting patiently—just for me!
His big brown eyes seemed to say “Don’t worry. I come here every day and I like this place.” If Iggy could be calm here, so could I. The butterflies that had been fluttering in my stomach went to sleep.
The beneficial roles of therapy and service dogs are well-documented. One of those jobs—facilitator—was created to support and comfort children and young adults facing difficult challenges such as medical examinations, police interviews and counseling or court sessions. The special, easy-going friendship of a gentle dog can enhance a child’s feelings of security in fearful situations like these can be.
Iggy, a black Labrador retriever, works for Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre in Toronto, a facility whose focus is offering response services to child abuse investigations. This photo-based picture book describes circumstances in which the dog’s calm presence assists children to respond without fear, reducing the intimidating nature of the event. The straightforward easy-to-read text written in first person shares authentic emotions that children would experience and shows how the dog can make a positive difference to their responses.
A Friend Like Iggy is slim, the presentation visually inviting. The up-close, often full-page photos make it highly suitable for sharing. Readers/listeners will identify with the volunteer youngsters posing in the photos. For instance, the starkness of a courtroom desk almost envelopes the tiny girl behind it, so her potential feelings of sadness, anger, fear or confusion are easily imagined. A perfect choice for the following page is a double-spread of a relaxed Iggy (who wouldn’t trust those soft brown eyes?) ready to “help small people feel bigger and big worries feel smaller”.
The final page gives details of Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre and its facility dogs program, BARK. Puppies are home raised and trained for two years, like other service dogs. Given the frequency with which children are involved in abusive situations, this program has a promising future. And A Friend Like Iggy will be a great introduction to it.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in British Columbia.