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Local esteemed therapy dog passes away


Kern County's only Disaster Stress Relief Dog died on Sunday, May 7. Sir Duke, 9, died after serving in countless loving capacities during his lifetime in Tehachapi.

He will be remembered for his service at the West Ranch Fire in Aug. 2010. He was immediately stationed with the command staff, staying by the side of the commanding officer. This was the man assigned to make life and death decisions about when and where to place firefighters. The stress was tremendous, and the officer benefited by keeping Sir Duke by his side. Sir Duke also worked with the families who were evacuated from their homes. Once again, he helped alleviate the traumatic stress people were experiencing by providing them with his own special brand of loving attention, comfort, hugs and kisses. He was especially attentive to those who had lost their own pets in the fire. Damp fur from human tears was a part of his day. He would go home each evening and vigorously roll on the ground to release the stress he had absorbed at his job. He was later awarded a badge from CAL Fire Incident Command Team 9 for his "invaluable and crucial support."

Sir Duke trained as a therapy dog in 2009, shortly after being adopted from the So. Calif. Golden Retriever Rescue organization by Constance Williams. His first assignment was visiting the Sierra Vista Assisted Living facility in Bear Valley Springs. One of his happiest moments was visiting a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer's. While she had been withdrawn and unresponsive for weeks, when Sir Duke walked in to visit her, she lit up like a Christmas tree! A big smile crossed her face and she reached out to pet him. Such is the potential relief and joy that a therapy dog can provide!

That summer, he began to work with the library booth at the Farmers' Markets in downtown Tehachapi. He had been trained to "read." Yep, he was quite the talented dog! He was known as The Reading Dog, and the kids loved him. He simply laid down, a big open book full of puppy pictures was laid on his forearms, and he was then instructed to "Stay" in that position. There he was: reading a book full of pictures of himself as a puppy. He was quite joyful about that, and smiled a lot at passersby. B


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