By Rachel Menitoff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — LifeBridge Health’s Center for Hope has a new addition to its team. And he’s trained to provide comfort and support to clients going through some really challenging times.

When children and their families walk through the doors of the Center for Hope, they’ve likely experienced something traumatic. Two therapy dogs are helping them open up at a time they might otherwise shut down.

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You’ll notice a friendly face as soon as you sit down in the first stop: the waiting room. His name is Manny.

“Manny kind of builds that trusting relationship,” said Amy Manger, child development supervisor.

Manger’s job is to make sure that children understand what their visit will be like. The Center for Hope’s child advocacy center handles cases of community violence, trauma and abuse.

Manger says Manny, who has been a part of the team for four years, breaks the ice.

“I usually give them a little bit of time to pet Manny and spend some time with Manny,” Manger said. “And then I can kind of use that as a leading conversation of, you know, do you have any pets at home?”

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Manny will greet kids in the waiting room, sit with them during an interview or a medical appointment, and does tricks to bring a smile to an otherwise anxious experience.

“One of the most important things that manny provides is his very accepting, gentle nature,” said Kerry Hannan, Director of Forensic Services.

Now, manny has a counterpart – George.

Lindsay Cole, a social worker at the Center for Hope, said George sits in on sessions with children.

George is in training to work with clients at LifeBridge’s hospital-based domestic violence, or Dove, program.

George provides a caring, non-judgemental presence that often allows even the most timid to share their story.

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“Making them feel comfortable in a way that a human may not be able to,” Manger said.

Rachel Menitoff