Beau is a black lab belonging to Jerry and Rita Cobbs of Huntsville. The Cobbs have three sons, all with disabilities. Two suffer seizures and the third is a victim of cerebral palsy and is mentally challenged. In desperation of finding a service dog to help care for the children, the Cobbs visited the Huntsville Humane Society and found Beau, who at the time was just six months old and partially trained. He could sit on command and was house broken. There was an immediate bond. Just four days after coming to live with the Cobbs, Beau was doing what appeared to come naturally. Jerry and Rita were wondering what happened to Beau and one of their sons, they had disappeared. After searching the house they found Beau in bed with the youngster, stretched out across the boy’s torso with his head against the child’s head. The young boy was in the midst of a seizure and Beau was restraining him so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Beau works at home where the seizures tend to occur. He responds in several ways. He sometimes will lie on the edge of the bed keeping the victim from falling off during the convulsion. While doing so, Beau emits a distinctive bark which alerts the parents that a seizure is happening. Other times Beau will clear the floor around the victim so that no harm will come to him.
With no formal training, the family believes that Beau’s unique techniques have been built on relationships; part of the human/animal bond and, God’s blessings.
Jessica was a special companion therapy dog recognized for paving the way for hundreds of therapy animals in the Birmingham area. According to officials of Hand-In-Paw, an organization dedicated to the use of therapy pets, Jessica was a quote, “Small dog with a big mission.” She was the very first therapy dog for Hand-in-Paw and loved to comfort the sick and injured children at Children’s Hospital as well as provide love and diversion for lonely seniors in nursing homes. Jessica died of age related health complications. There were many times when Jessica’s presence changed lives and helped people heal. One of the most memorable moments mentioned at the induction ceremony, was when Jessica was taken to the room of a cancer patient at the University of Alabama’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. The patient was non-responsive, wouldn’t speak, bathe, eat or cooperate with staff members. She just wanted to die. When Jessica entered the room, the woman lit up and began to talk to Jessica. She shared what she was feeling about her cancer and with every stroke the patient made over Jessica’s body, the lady softened and gained hope. As Jessica and her handler, Beth Franklin were getting ready to leave, the patient told Jessica that she was going to get a little dog just like her to live with when she went home. Obviously Jessica had restored hope in a dying patient.
Cede (pronounced Sadie), also known as Mercede Debo of Lady Ann Lake, is nine years old and shares her home with Dee and Richard Kowallik of Madison. Richard suffered his first heart attack in 2000 and Cede became his exercise/therapy pal. They exercised and walked up to four miles a day in their neighborhood around Lady Ann Lake. In the spring of 2002 Cede was invited to be presented at Huntsville Humane Society’s Dog Ball. During the preceding week Richard and Cede continued their exercise regiment but Richard was not quite up to par. After retiring for the evening, Cede became increasingly anxious about Richard’s deteriorating condition. Richard’s wife was out of town visiting relatives. Sometime after midnight Cede began barking and jumping on Richard to try and rouse him. Because of Cede’s insistence Richard finally realized he was in distress and dialed 911. Cede’s concerns were warranted, Richard was in the middle of his second heart attack and his most serious one. While at the hospital, physicians there told him that had it not been for Cede’s actions in waking him up, he probably would not be alive.
Katie is a 12-year old Golden Retriever. She and her partner Connie Gates have volunteered with Therapy Partners in Huntsville for ten years. They have worked their specials kind of magic at Chi Ho Children’s Home, Harris Home for Children and, at HOPE Place, a shelter for abused women and their children. In their years together Katie has made visits to more than five hundred children around Alabama and has been an ambassador for animal assisted therapy in north Alabama. Katie has worked her magic with children showing unconditional, non-judgmental love, bringing comfort and normalization to what is usually a frightening time in the lives of misplaced children. She helps smooth the physical and psychological abuse these women and children have experienced. In 2007, Katie and Connie were named Delta Society’s Pet Partner Team of the year. They traveled to Philadelphia to receive the award which was featured on Purina’s National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day and aired on NBC.