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Abused dog finds new purpose

Staff writer

When the McPherson Humane Society seized Henry, a German shorthaired pointer, in December 2007, rescuers were uncertain that he would survive, even with treatment.

He was emaciated and ridden with heartworms and had been abused. Even now he is afraid of feet, indicating he may have been kicked, Henry’s current owner Diana Costello, of Marion, said.

She said Henry, now 4 years old, was a hunting dog before the society took him in. Now he has a different job: therapy dog at St. Luke Living Center in Marion.

Costello adopted Henry in May 2008 and began training him to be a therapy dog. After he passed a Therapy Dogs International examination, Costello took him to work with her at Canton-Galva Elementary and Middle schools, where he became the “literature hound” at the library.

He provided an incentive for students to visit the library and read. Spending time with Henry was also an effective reward for students with behavioral disorders, Costello said. Teachers and staff members also would stop at the library for a stress-relieving visit with Henry.

She lost her job and decided to go back to school at Emporia State University. But that posed a problem, because Henry panics if he thinks he’s been abandoned, so she couldn’t leave him home alone during the day.

She called the McPherson Humane Society and asked what she could do. They recommended contacting retirement homes to see if they would be interested in having him as a therapy dog during the day. She contacted St. Luke Living Center of Marion and they welcomed the idea.

“I couldn’t have kept him otherwise,” she said Friday.

Henry began visiting the living center five days a week in July, activities director Robyn Kukuk said. Residents have taken a liking to Henry, she said.

“A lot of them look forward to seeing him in the morning,” she said. “He is a friend.”

Resident Art Mueller agreed.

“I feel it helps cheer people’s attitude,” he said. “He’s a real friendly dog.”

Henry is always ready to go to the living center, Costello said.

“He can’t wait to get there,” she said. “When he is at the living center, he is spoiled rotten.”

But when she arrives to pick him up at the end of the day, Henry is waiting for her at the front door.

Costello trained Henry herself, because she had attended therapy dog classes with a do gshe owned previously. Therapy dog training begins with basic obedience, but it involves much more.

To pass the examination, he had to demonstrate that he doesn’t get anxious around strangers. He also demonstrated that wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and unexpected loud noises didn’t frighten him, she said.

Henry is well behaved when he is at the living center, Mueller said.

“The dog doesn’t seem to bother anyone,” he said. “It’s a tame dog.”

Last modified Dec. 3, 2009

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