Dec 29, 2013

Gracie spreads Christmas cheer at Oakley House

GREENVILLE – Gracie travels five counties spreading cheer to hospice patients and residents of nursing and continuing care homes. She’s two years old and loves to go “bye-bye.”

Gracie is a TDI: Therapy Dog International.

Her most recent visit to Darke County was at the Oakley House in Greenville on Dec. 19. Gracie wandered around the room visiting over 20 residents while her owner, Candy Null, explained Gracie’s training to get the designation of Therapy Dog.

“I got her in a box,” Null said. “When I took her out of it, it was like the Tasmanian Devil. She ran around everywhere. In the beginning all she did was pee and poop.”

Noting Gracie was her best friend, Null said she started training when she was eight weeks old. She got her basic training through the Darke County Dog Club. “There was no training available for the TDI program so I did it myself.”

Gracie had to go to Columbus and pass 13 different tests in order to be certified. Two of the tests involved turning down food and walking over a hot dog.

Null, a Heartland Hospice chaplain, had Gracie do tricks for the residents, played some Christmas songs on her 36-string “Appalachian instrument” and told a story about a town that had chimes that wouldn’t ring.

“Townspeople brought gifts to celebrate the Christ Child,” she said, “but the chimes still wouldn’t ring. Then two small boys arrived… and gave all that they had to the Christ Child.”

And the chimes started ringing.

Earlier Ted Finnarn gave the residents a presentation about handling their estates, and afterward Santa visited the Oakley House to hand out presents to the residents.

Sandy Baker, Oakley House sales manager, said the Santa visit was courtesy of Spirit Ambulance. The Hartzell family – Linda, Larry and Paul – did the honors with presents purchased by the Oakley House staff.

“Each of our staff members adopted a resident,” Baker said.

There was one more Christmas event for residents. The daughter of Dining Services Coordinator Darla Cross, Shalee, lost her home the end of November due to a fire. Everything was gone.

“The staff and residents here,” Baker said, “went together to purchase presents and food for Shalee, her husband and their three children.”

Gracie visits with Oakley House residents while her master, Candy Null, talks about Gracie’s training to become a Therapy Dog. (Bob Robinson photo)

Santa sits with one of the Oakley House residents after handing out gifts to all. (Bob Robinson photo)


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