After 11 years of spreading smiles professionally, Abe the therapy dog is retiring.
Over the course of his career with Seattle Children’s, he has cheered up thousands of kids dealing with their toughest times.
“Not only do patients and their families enjoy his visits, there are staff members we’ve come to know over the past several years who love seeing him,” says owner Judith Bonifaci.
While the process of becoming a certified therapy pet is challenging, Abe wagged his tail the whole way through.
Bonifaci brought the dog into her life more than a decade ago after overcoming the heartbreaking loss of her last golden retriever.
This time, she wanted her pet to make a difference not just in her life, but the lives of countless others, so she started taking Abe to therapy dog training when he was just a puppy. Often it takes canines three to four years to become a therapy dog, but Abe mastered all of the strict obedience requirements and received his certification when he was just 14 months old.
Abe started his charitable career as a classroom therapy dog at a local elementary school. Once he turned 2 — one of the requirements of visiting patients at Seattle Children’s — he started visiting the hospital on a weekly basis through its Animal-Assisted Activities Program, supported by PetSmart Charities.
And that is what he has been doing for the past decade: leading Bonifaci from room to room, brightening the days of everyone he passes.
Strong in spirit, Abe still loves making others happy, but he doesn’t have the same stamina as when he first started. He will spend his golden years enjoying rest and relaxation at home with Bonifaci.
Before he left, Seattle Children’s treated Abe to an affection-filled retirement party, so this one therapy dog could see the positive impact he has had on so many.
Abe’s space won’t remain vacant for long: Now that Abe has retired, Bonifaci’s 2-year-old golden retriever Jackie will be stepping in for her big brother.