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Love On A Leash

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For ages, dogs have been used to help humans do everything from physical labor to emotional healing. But not every dog is meant for every chore. Meet Allegra, a five-year-old golden retriever who was put into one training program only to find a better fit in another. Now she has a second chance – and a very unique ministry. Kim Riemland has the story.

 
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Locator:  Gardiner, Maine

It’s all smiles across the room today, as Allegra is here to provide unconditional love.

Woman petting Allegra:  “You’re loving this, and I am, yes I am.”

Allegra comes here about once a month.  Her owner, United Methodist pastor Arlene Tully, shares Allegra with hospital and nursing home patients and the homebound.

The Rev. Arlene Tully / United Methodist Pastor:  “The people that Allegra visits love it, they love to have her be there to pet, to have that affection.”

Woman petting Allegra:  “Such a nice dog.”

Originally, Allegra started her training as a wheelchair assistance dog.

The Rev. Arlene Tully: “Allegra was born for this work.”

In the end, she washed out of that program, only to be discovered for a new line of work – one of ministry service dog.

The Rev. Arlene Tully: “I like to think of it as redeemed – out of that failure came this wonderful new ministry.  As in many of our lives when we think we have failed, that we find it just leads us to a different place that God intended us to be.”

Woman petting Allegra:  “Very gently, she lets you pet her and everything.”

Allegra is one of only a handful of ministry dogs whose job is nothing more than to hang out with people needing some attention themselves.

The Rev. Arlene Tully: “That’s her full time job, and so instead of helping one person for a very long time, Allegra helps lots of people for short periods of time.”

Woman petting Allegra:  “I love you too, yes I do!”

Pastor Tully describes Allegra as an agent of grace, serving those in her community with love and affection…something she says not every dog could do as well.

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Allegra was initially trained by National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), a national organization to train service dogs to assist the deaf and disabled.  You can get more information on NEADS at www.neads.org.