Archive for March 5th, 2012

A Day in the Life of Gracie the Grade School Comfort Dog – Vetstreet

Posted on March 5, 2012. Filed under: News Worthy | Tags: , , , , , , , |


A Day in the Life of Gracie the Grade School Comfort Dog


Trinity Lutheran School / Facebook

Gracie has been on the job at an Iowa school since last September.

She arrives at school bright and early each morning to greet parents and children as they come through the door. Contrary to what you may think, she’s not the principal or a teacher.

She’s Gracie the comfort dog.

The 16-month-old Golden Retriever now has nearly six months on the job at Trinity Lutheran School in Davenport, Iowa, under her belt.

“She just intuitively knows that her job is to help the children,” says principal Bill Meyer. “She very quickly has tuned in to kids and their needs.”

A new breed of service canines referred to as comfort dogs are beginning to pop up at schools across the country. Certified as a therapy dog, Gracie was trained through the Lutheran Church Charities in Illinois.

According to Tim Hetzner, the organization’s president, prisoners train the canines for eight or nine months to be service dogs. Then, depending on where they’ll ultimately be placed, the dogs spend an additional four to six weeks learning the comfort dog portion of their job. In Gracie’s case, she learned to work with children of all ages.

LCC also trains dogs to do ministry work and help out in disasters, like last year’s devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Mo. “We’re having a hard time keeping up with the growth,” Hetzner says.

Trinity Lutheran School / Facebook

Just petting Gracie can bring a smile to a student’s face.

All in a Day’s Dog Work

Gracie lives with a Trinity preschool teacher. Each morning, the two head for school, which serves children from preschool through eighth grade.

Gracie’s day often starts by helping a preschool boy who has problems with separation anxiety. The first time Gracie heard the boy crying, “she sat down next to him and nuzzled her head beside him,” Meyer says.

Before Gracie arrived on the scene, the principal would often spend 30 minutes each morning consoling the boy, but with his canine companion’s help, “he’s able to reengage a whole lot more quickly. If she hears somebody crying, and she’s here in my office, she will stand up, look at me and want to go.”

Reading and a Little Recreation

In addition to helping kids cope with their emotions, Gracie’s no slouch when it comes to academics. The comfort dog will often sit with kids who are struggling to read aloud.

“A dog isn’t going to judge whether you make a mistake or not,” Meyer says. “The benefit is for the child. Because Gracie is there, they feel more comfortable, so they read and practice and get better.”

When she’s done with story time, Gracie gets to have some fun. She’s still a youngster, after all.

“One of her commands is to ‘go play,’ ” Meyer says. “She goes out with upper-grade students to run and play along with the kids. She still has that puppy-ness in her.” You can see Gracie at work in this video from WTKR.

If there are a lot of kids who want to pet her, “she tends to just lay down and say, ‘I’ll give you more of my body to pet,’ ” Meyer says.

Trinity Lutheran School / Facebook

Building a Bridge

Nearly all of Gracie’s care is donated. Village Vets in Davenport takes care of her medical needs free of charge and helped get her food donated through one of its suppliers. A local groomer keeps Gracie looking beautiful with monthly baths and nail trims as a goodwill gesture.

When she has free time, Gracie also visits a local hospital and nursing home to comfort patients, and she does ministry work. This busy dog even has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Meyer sums up Gracie’s special role best: “The real goal with these dogs is that they provide a bridge to people — most people love a dog.”

via A Day in the Life of Gracie the Grade School Comfort Dog – Vetstreet.

Gracie the comfort dog

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Retired Marine Honored by Red Cross for Rescuing 1000 Dogs

Posted on March 5, 2012. Filed under: Advocate | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Since 2006, an unassuming Connecticut man has been saving throngs of dogs from kill shelters, and after providing a second chance for more than 1,000 of them, retired Marine Bob Yost has been named a 2012 Red Cross Hero for his selfless dedication to animal rescue.

It’s well earned recognition when you consider that Yost has spent the past six years making the world a much better place for dogs. The humble advocate has earned a reputation among rescuers in his community as the first to raise a hand when help is needed. Transporting dogs to waiting homes, he often departs his Bethel home at 5 a.m. to make long hauls, pulling dogs from mid-Atlantic shelters and whisking them away to waiting homes in New England.

Those consistent, compassionate efforts have not gone unnoticed. Yost has been named a 2012 American Red Cross Hero. “He was one of many nominated by the community,” said Red Cross spokesperson Paul Shipman. “We received recommendations for people who had all done a heroic deed. But then there are people who do things day in day out, who are constantly and quietly contributing to a good cause. That’s what Bob was doing.”

Local media outlets have also made recent mention of Yost’s accomplishments. According to the Bethel Patch,

The dogs Bob saved were at death’s door. Most of them came from the south or mid-west. Veronica Bickelhaupt, Shelter and clinic manager at DAWS, said, “The dogs might be used for hunting and if the dog gets pregnant, they leave the puppies by the side of the road.”

Dunne has worked with Yost for more than six years. Describing him as dedicated and dependable, she said that Yost has done the major portion of out of state driving. “He is always the first one to step up. He does it because he wants to; he thoroughly enjoys it. It is selfless volunteering.” With a grin, she said, “He always takes his own dog, his co-pilot, Dutch with him.”

Yost said that being a Marine prepared him for this kind work, and the way he sees it,  “It goes back to animals being part of household, not only companions. If you bring them into your home, you have a responsibility to care for them. Once I didn’t go to work everyday, I wanted to contribute to things that had meaning for me, and DAWS certainly fulfilled that,” he said.

A Red Cross Heroes Breakfast honoring Bob and other category award winners will take place on March 8 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury Connecticut. Tickets are available from the American Red Cross of Western Connecticut. Contact Nicole Arsenault at (203) 702-1282 or email

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Poetry – Honor, Loyalty, Brotherhood

Posted on March 5, 2012. Filed under: Advocate |

Poetry – Honor, Loyalty, Brotherhood

I go to work every morning, you see, I protect and serve.
I have a two-legged partner, and he’s more than I deserve.
He’s like my brother, and for him I would die.
If he asks something of me, there’s nothing I wouldn’t try.

They send me in when it’s dangerous, and lives they could lose.
I don’t worry about it though, there’s not another life I’d choose.
I was born to protect, and there’s nothing I can’t do.
There’s K9 officers everywhere, and they’d die for you, too.

I’ve sniffed bombs on airplanes, and assisted in the chase.
They never get too far, I always win the race.
I’v helped people escape buildings, when they’re lit up in a blaze.
I’ve done riots and stake-outs, sometimes I don’t sleep for days.

I’ve lied by dying children, as a service hound.
Kept my head on their chest, as they can’t make a sound.
I’ve served my country in war time, and I would do it again.
Those boys need a friend like me, cause with war, no one wins.

I’ve been on the front lines, and sniffed out IED’s.
I’ve saved many soldiers lives, I get laid to rest with a wreath.
They’ll a prayer over my body, and thank me for being there.
They know that it wasn’t just my job, for them, I really cared.

I will continue to uphold, the K9 code.
It’s honor, loyalty, and brotherhood; I’ll forever walk that road.
If my partner ever lost me, they’d replace me, I know.
That’s okay, I did my job, and I know he’ll miss me so.

About the author:  Savana Frame is a poet & dog lover from West Virgina. She enjoys taking photographs and playing with her kids, three of which are dogs.  You can find her on Facebook here.

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