RICHMOND — Almost everyone in a crowded elevator at the General Assembly Building this morning cooed when Grace the therapy dog stepped inside.
“What’s her name?” asked one rider.
“Grace,” replied her handler.
“Awwww, I love Grace!” the rider responded.
Similar reactions followed wherever the golden retriever — sporting a fetching Virginia Tech bandana — went this morning as she made the rounds to visit delegates, senators and their staff. She was one of a group of therapy and service dogs — ranging from tiny yellow Labrador pups to grey-snouted Rottweilers — who descended on the Capitol to promote their organizations. They included Saint Francis Services Dogs in Roanoke, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and Canine Companions for Independence, a national organization.
The “Paws for Breakfast” gathering drew a crowd.
Virginia Beach Dels. Bob Tata and Ron Villanueva stopped in for a pastry and a photo op, respectively, followed by Moneta Sen. Bill Stanley, who knelt to play with Wyoming, a 3-month-old yellow Labrador-golden retriever mix training to become an assistance dog.
Arlene Santiago and her service dog, Georgie, watched nearby.
Santiago said the 3-year-old black Lab has changed her life. The Bowling Green resident has progressive multiple sclerosis, which limits her mobility, and at one time rendered her unable to dress herself or stay home alone.
Grace gave her back her independence. The service dog picks up dropped objects, fetches the phone and assists with chores, Santiago said. She also knows how to get help if Santiago falls.
“She’s a true blessing,” Santiago said. “This dog brought me back to life.”
– Kathy Adams, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot