Meet Abbey, a trained 4-year old Maltese therapy dog and her owners and handlers, Roslyn Lindeman and Jennifer Town.

Once a week, Abbey and the ladies help make the day a little brighter for child victims receiving services at the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) in Niceville.

Both ladies worked together in accomplished careers as registered nurses; Jennifer, a captain in the Navy Nurse Corps, and Roselynn in the Civil Service. Along with Abbey, the women completed 15 weeks of pet and handler training at Pawtopia in San Diego, California. Abbey successfully passed the test as AKC Canine Good Citizen and became certified in February 2017.

Shortly thereafter, Abbey and her owners joined the Armed Forces YMCA Pet Therapy Program at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, visiting both inpatients and outpatients of all ages and illnesses. Per Naval records, Abbey and the ladies collectively registered 168 hours of animal-assisted therapy with an impressive estimated 7,500 staff, patient and visitor interactions for 2017.

All three retired to the Destin area last year and have become quite immersed in volunteering to help others. According to the ladies, “We truly believe that Abbey was born to be a therapy and comfort dog. Her disposition is such that just seeing, touching or being around her makes people comfortable and happy. No matter how young, how old, how happy or how sad they are, she seems to know exactly what to do.”

Currently Abbey visits and works at the Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center in Niceville three hours a week. She is also part of the Pet Therapy Program at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, where she meets and greets travelers. In her spare time, she is the local ambassador for tourists and residents alike in and around their home in Destin.

A total of nine therapy dogs and their owners and handlers are helping the kids at both centers. ECCAC’s mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect, protect children in Okaloosa and Walton counties and restore the lives and futures of these impacted children and their families. For more information, visit www.eccac.org. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.