Gracie, a small white poodle with expressive brown eyes was trained and certified as a service dog in February 2010. Her area of expertise was to serve as a therapy dog in hospital and nursing home settings. Sister Carol Weaver was serving as a parish deaconess at a Lutheran church in Rhode Island when Gracie was certified, but it wasn’t long before the duo accepted a call to serve LSS (now Ascentria care Alliance) in church relations in April 2010. It appeared at first that Gracie would not be able to use her new skills as a therapy dog in this new position. Was this wasted time and training for Gracie? Certainly not!
Little did Sister Carol realize that Gracie would play such a big part in her new call to serve LSS in church relations! First, Gracie’s certification allows her to legally go into any public setting, a huge advantage because of extensive travelling for LSS. It also meant no kennel fees and other problems. Secondly, Sister Carol soon discovered that Gracie is inclined to approach people in need with a distinct canine compassion that is hard to describe. In her first home in Lewiston, Maine, LSS has programs for people with disabilities. During Sister Carol’s orientation in the spring of 2010, Gracie met Don,* who lives in a group home in a near-by town. Don took a liking to Gracie and Sister Carol and subsequently invited them to visit him for conversation and devotions (Don is a Baptist-Christian and loves going to his church in the area).
It dawned on Sister Carol that besides the pastoral purpose of these visits, Don could help Gracie refine her skills in different settings! So she asked Don if they could practice some new skills when visiting people in their homes. Don agreed and a bond between ‘man and dog’ developed and became a new relationship and ministry for Gracie and Sister Carol! Isn’t it amazing how our talents and God-given gifts can be used for the common good and for all kinds of healing and relationship-building? Praise God for the ‘gifts’ of Don and Gracie! And even now, as another move has brought this church relations duo to Worcester, MA, Gracie continues to serve as a companion and therapy dog for all people! GRACE HAPPENS!