Seattle Children's hosts paw-some retirement party for longtime therapy dog

This smiling face belongs to Abe the therapy dog; he helps kids heal at Seattle Children's.
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Abe the therapy dog is a fluffy fixture at Seattle Children’s.

Today he's giving a last goodbye to some of his best friends.

Abe has been a volunteer here for 11 years.  Last week, friends gathered for the golden retriever's retirement party.

"This is his last day here. He has been a therapy dog at Children's since he was two, and he's 13 and a half, and his license expires on Saturday," said Judith Bonifaci, Abe’s owner.

Instead of a cake, there are pup party favors.  No gold watch -- a basket of toys from PetSmart instead.

What really makes this party special are the guests -- patients he's helped by just being soft and friendly.

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"He was the first dog that came to visit me,’ said patient Oona Loop, showing off a Polaroid of her favorite dog. 'He helped me ignore the pain."

Abe helped other patients by just being a dog, and helping them think about the part of their life that lies beyond the hospital doors.

"He relaxes me. He reminds me of my puppy dog back home.  He's just a good boy," said patient John Bacon.

His owner Judith calls him 'Everyone's Dog'.  And says he has a gift.

"He just knows.  He knows where he's needed and what he needs to do."

This therapy dog didn't just help patients. He touched the lives of hospital staffers, and parents too. And many were there with a pat on the head and a, "thanks for your service". Abe replied by steadily wagging his tail.

Judith recalls parents in the ICU telling her they were feeling helpless and hopeless until Abe walked in.

"It's important to know that he really makes a difference in the lives of the people here at the hospital.  I've seen miracles happen here because of him that would not have happened if he hadn't been here."

Even though this is his retirement party, as he enjoys the pets, and the pictures, wagging and smiling; through it all, it's clear that Abe is still hard at work. Doing the job that's come naturally to him for the last 77 dog years.

 

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