Library says good-bye to therapy dog Grant
The Milford Memorial Library is full of stories, but not all of them have a happy ending.
Grant, the library's 12-year-old American Staffordshire terrier and certified therapy dog, passed away on Monday.
"He had cancer and he did very poorly over the weekend," Aimee Clark, Grant's handler and special projects coordinator at the library said. "We were hoping we had more time. He went downhill pretty fast."
Clark said a couple of children have already asked about their laid-back reading companion -- she's still working on a way to break the news to young readers.
"I told one child 'he isn't here,' then I whispered to his mother what happened," Clark said. "If there's just a child alone and we don't want to scare them or anything, we just tell them he 'retired.'"
Grant was so still at his spot behind Clark's desk near the copy machine that some of the library's visitors didn't know he was real. He was trained to stay on his bed -- people who wanted to visit Grant came to him.
The therapy pet heard hundreds of stories since his arrival in the summer of 2009. At one point, Clark had to squelch a rumor circulating at Okoboji Elementary that her four-legged sidekick didn't like books with cats in them. "He does like cat books," she would assure young readers.
Grant was certified as a therapy dog at the age of 7, but his history with Clark went farther back. She got him as a pup from a breeder in Pennsylvania who trained Staffordshire terriers for competitive obedience and therapy work.
Clark is familiar with other libraries that use therapy dogs to help challenged readers. But, the special projects coordinator said it was unusual for a therapy dog to be available on site like Grant was. The friendly pooch came to "work" Mondays, Fridays and some Saturdays in better times. He accompanied Clark to the library more often as his health began to fade.
"The end diagnosis was just made recently, but he had been having health problems for the last few months," she said.
The special projects coordinator hopes Grant will be remembered "as a really good dog who encouraged children to read and loved everybody unconditionally."
Clark said the library won't take steps to replace Grant in the foreseeable future.