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.


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