Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Therapy Dog Takes His Last Ride after Life Devoted to Friendship

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Therapy Dog Takes His Last Ride after Life Devoted to Friendship

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. | A family mourns when they lose a dog. When Jack, Rob Wade's American bulldog, died three weeks ago, the pain was felt well outside their home.

Jack was a certified, badge-wearing member of Therapy Dogs International, and he made his appointed rounds as faithfully as a letter carrier.

Each Friday Jack tugged Wade down the halls at Magnolia Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on St. Simons, going room to room, checking under the beds for squirrels, licking hands, patiently accepting pats and hugs and crunching dog treats. In the eight years he visited, some patients saved some of their breakfast sausage for him.

He somehow came to know what was required of every patient, Wade said.

"One woman who's a paraplegic, he'd get up and give her kisses. Some, he'd just sit and listen to them," Wade said.

A few didn't want a visit from Jack. Cat people, probably.

What are you going to do? He'd just tow Wade on to the next stop.

Some were like a woman back in 2010 who was bedridden flat on her back. As soon as Jack came through her door, she started laughing and touched Jack as he put his front paws on her bed. She thanked Wade repeatedly for bringing Jack by because she loved dogs. As they began to leave, her thin fingers grabbed Wade's fist that was wrapped around the lease. She pulled it to her lips, kissed it and thanked him again.

When he finally found his voice in the hall, Wade said, "That's why we come."

And they kept coming, each Friday, year after year. Wade was at Magnolia Manor in September helping patients get on the buses as they evacuated for Tropical Storm Irma. He has formed friendships and goes back often to visit patients.

He also visited the special ed students at Todd Grant Elementary School in Darien when his wife, Kathy, was the assistant principal there.

The Wades came by Jack because of a lease violation. When their son, Chris, was a student at the University of Georgia, they moved him into an apartment. Chris and his roommate figured since they were at Georgia, they needed a bulldog so they got Jack.

The problem was, the rules said no pets and their apartment was pretty close to the office so getting caught was a near certainty. …

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