Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Friends Indeed for Sick, Aged

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Friends Indeed for Sick, Aged

Article excerpt


ST. SIMONS ISLAND - As a man walked his dog down the halls of Magnolia Manor, an island nursing home, patients and staff members called out cheerfully.

"Good morning, Jack," a woman in a wheelchair said.

"Hey, Jack. Have you been chasing squirrels?" Inez McCullar asked.

That's the first clue that Jack is the dog.

"People know his name," Rob Wade said Friday of his American bulldog. "They don't know mine. I don't take it personally."

As Jack, a certified member of Therapy Dogs International, tugged Wade down the hall, it became apparent he knows his job. It is to sit dutifully to be petted by those who can reach him, to lean his front paws on the bedsides of those who can't and to sometimes accept a gentle hug.

One woman apologizes that she had not saved Jack any of her breakfast sausage. He seems not to mind as she rubs his fur with gnarled, arthritic fingers.

At 90 pounds, Jack may seem big to those who had to leave little lap dogs behind. Not to Joan DeVries, formerly of Chicago, who once owned two St. Bernards that topped out at 250 and 195 pounds each.

"They had their own bedroom and their own truck," she said.

DeVries loves dogs and tells Wade about the dogs she saw Friday morning on Animal Planet, which she watches every day. Too bad she's allergic to dogs, but so is Wade.

Jack seems to sense moods. His wagging tail fell limp as he stopped at a woman who seemed near tears in quietly telling Wade she had had a bad morning and there was nothing he could do for her.

But for most of the patients, the response was the same. Their mouths widened into smiles and their voices jumped an octave as they talked to Jack.

Jack padded dutifully along the squeaky clean halls going wherever Wade took him. But in every room, he took care of one task before doing anything else: He looked under the beds in spite of Wade's assurances there were no squirrels. …

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