For centuries dogs have been called man’s best friend. Many of us either have dogs as pets or remember with fondness the years that we did. Perhaps it is because in most cases the dogs seem to think a lot more of us than we are really worth. A dog can be a great example of unconditional love. The other day I found a whole new reason to give this title of “best friend” to a dog.
I met Jovie the resource dog from the Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home here in Covington. She is one of the options of care offered by the home to help people deal with their grief. This can particularly be helpful with children. She is a Shepard Mix and trained and certified by Therapy Dogs International. She has been trained to be comfortable with strangers.
Adam Cooper, Caldwell and Cowan, Bereavement Management Director, uses Jovie upon request to help people dealing with grief. There are times when sitting with Jovie and perhaps patting her, gives a sense of relief. It allows the one grieving to deal with their feelings in a very quiet and inner way.
When Adam and the folks at the funeral home came up with the idea of having a resource dog as a part of the service they offer, they faced the challenge of where to find the right dog. Adam saw a flyer posted at his vet’s office that there was a dog that needed a new home. Jovie’s first owner had recently died of cancer and the family was looking for the right placement for her.
The experience of illness and death that had been a part of Jovie’s first home, made her an ideal candidate to be a resource dog. It was truly a match that blessed Jovie with a loving new home and the clients of Caldwell and Cowan with a valuable support when needed. Upon meeting Jovie, Adam knew he had found his dog.
Jovie has other tasks in our community as well as dealing with the grieving. Many of us are used to spelling dog as “dawg” when it comes to our beloved University of Georgia. Adam is an alum of UGA and with Jovie shows a direct connection between a dog (or dawg) and education. She goes to the Newton County Theme School to help second and third graders with their reading.
Jim Meneguzzo, the principal of NCTS, says that being with Jovie gives the children a chance to read without being afraid of being criticized. She doesn’t seem to be bothered with pronunciation that may be off and seems to be taking it all in.. She has also dropped by the Early Leaning Center at the First Presbyterian Church to help those beginning to read.
Her handler, Adam, gets a kick out of being recognized out in the community by one of the students that Jovie has worked with as “Jovie’s Daddy.”
Jovie is also a regular visitor to Merryvale Assisted Living. There she visits with the residents and for many bring back memories of pets of the past. She has been trained to be around walkers and wheel chairs. Food dropped on the floor will not distract her. Jovie has been trained to be comfortable in challenging situations.
A resource dog is different from a service dog. Service dogs are trained to assist people with certain physical needs such as sight or hearing. While the resource dog deals with more of the emotional side.
Resource dogs are more limited to where they may go as opposed to service dogs that by laws can go many places that animals are not usually welcomed. By appearance she wears a vest very similar to a service dog. She is clearly on a different mission.
When Jovie is off duty, she becomes a pet at the Cooper’s household. She gets along great with the children and the Cooper’s other dogs. F course because of her training, a higher standard of conduct is expected of her than other dogs.
Adam and his wife Angie are both certified Stephen Ministers at the Eastridge Community Church. This is a ministry of pastoral care found in many churches. Those who are care givers have received many hours of training. Some of the care receivers the Coopers have been assigned are dealing with grief. IF they are a part of a grief group they probably have met Jovie. In the future, Jovie might be involved even more as a part of the Stephen Ministry.
Dogs like Jovie touch those needing care in a very special way. Truly they are among our best friends.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington