Helpful ‘Hero’: Women’s Center of Jacksonville welcomes new, comforting four-legged employee

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The newest employee at the Women’s Center of Jacksonville might be the most intuitive -- and shortest -- they’ve ever had on staff.

Hero, a 6-year-old yellow lab and trained therapy dog, was adopted by the Center in April from K9s For Warriors.

“Last week we had a survivor who made the decision to report her assault to law enforcement,” said Callie Avant, the Center’s counseling director. “Hero went in with one of the handlers and Hero knew she was upset. He went right to her.”

That unconditional love for clients who have experienced traumatic events is needed, the center said.

“He has commands: When you pat your legs, he’ll come up on you and start licking your face if you want him to,” said Teresa Miles, Hero’s handler. “He can go into a room, and you take him off leash and he will reach the person who has the most pain.”

Hero’s dog therapy duties include cuddling up on clients during counseling sessions, assisting the most stressed-out person in the room, and just putting a smile on people’s faces.

Hero, the 6-year-old therapy dog (WJXT)

Hero, who was a warrior’s dog for five years until the warrior could no longer care for him, has now developed a bond with Miles, as well as everyone else who works at the center.

Miles said the center wanted a therapy dog for a while, and when K9s For Warriors called, it was a dream come true.

“He sent me a picture of Hero and we all just fell in love,” Miles said. “I put in a call to my house, to my family, and was like what do you think? Can we be the primary handler for this dog?”

Hero loves the employees so much that many have trained to become handlers too. He comforts not only clients but the employees at the center as well.

“They take on a lot of pain from their clients so sometimes staff will just say, ‘Can I have Hero for the day?’” Miles said.

Sometimes, all you need in life is love and a 6-year-old yellow lab.

Resources for survivors and their families

  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24 hours, call 1-800-656-4673.
  • Duval County, Baker County and Nassau County: Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s 24-hour rape crisis hotline: 904-721-7273. More info, click here.
  • Clay County: Quigley House Crisis Hotline (24/7) 904-284-0061, visit for more information or contact the Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512 or 911.