Griffin, an 8-month-old black Labrador retriever, was recently certified and started his new position this week as county canine advocate.
The young dog’s primary duty will be to work with child victims of sexual assault to lessen the stress and trauma that can result from confronting their abusers, according to Joan Grillo, the county’s crime victim rights coordinator.
Ottawa County previously had a dog, named Sydney, in the same position, but that dog left when her handler left her position with the prosecutor’s office, said Victim Advocate Jacquelyn Hilgeman.
Hilgeman, who is also Griffin’s owner, said the county was not actively looking for a replacement for Sydney, but she volunteered to get a dog to take on that role. She submitted an application to the Leader Dogs for the Blind in July.
“It took this long to get a good fit,” Hilgeman said.
Griffin was trained through the Prison Puppy Program implemented by Leader Dogs for the Blind and started his training at the Chippewa Correctional Facility at the age of 7 weeks. Although he was a star student, Hilgeman said, Griffin was disqualified due to a diagnosis of hip dysplasia that requires surgery.
The bad news for Griffin turned out to be good news for Ottawa County, Hilgeman said.
Griffin was introduced to the courtrooms over the past couple of weeks, but couldn’t start his new job until passing the certification test. He passed the test, but will be further delayed due to upcoming hip surgeries.
Griffin had surgery on his left hip Wednesday at the VCA Southwest Michigan Animal Emergency and Referral Center in Kalamazoo, Hilgeman said. The surgery was covered through a Crime Victims Rights grant available for canine advocates, she said.
Griffin will have about a two-month recovery before he will have less invasive work done on his right hip. That should require about a two-week recovery, and then he’ll be back at his job once he gets the all clear, Hilgeman said.
She said they hope that the Crime Victims Rights grant will cover the second surgery, as well, for a total medical bill of between $7,000 and $8,000.
Anyone interested in helping can donate to the Canine Advocacy Program. Donations to the program will also benefit the other 26 dogs working as advocates in Michigan, Hilgeman said.
For information about the Canine Advocacy Program, go to www.capmich.org.
You can keep up with Griffin on his personal Facebook page at Griffin Canine.