Library says good-bye to therapy dog Grant

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

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.

View 6 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • So sorry to hear of beautiful Grant's passing. My first Pet Therapy dog, black Amstaff Bull, is currently 15 1/2. He retired from "listening" to children read in 2009, when my Staffy Gus took over. It is such a joy to have a bully working (and LOVING) with children in the school system. I am very sorry for your loss. I know you were and are so proud of Grant's sweetness, and his patience during the thousands of words read to him. Good boy Grant. Wear your read medallion proudly as you run on the other side of the bridge.

    -- Posted by gwyn scheidt on Thu, Jul 4, 2013, at 1:28 AM
  • We are allowing parents to discuss death with their children themselves. You can learn a lot of things at the library, but many parents prefer to teach some life lessons at home.

    -- Posted by stafinois on Sun, Jul 7, 2013, at 1:56 PM
  • Because death opens up discussions of human vulnerability, illness, religion and spirituality, I feel it would be inappropriate for a public/government entity to have these discussions with someone else's child. Giving the children an innocuous answer while letting the parents know and letting them choose to open that discussion in the way they feel their child is best able to receive the news is exactly how this should be handled, and I'm grateful to the staff for doing this.

    The main point of this story is to memorialize a dog who was a gift to his community, and the power that one animal can have in the world. Thank you to Grant's family, and thank you to the Milford Memorial Library for sharing him with us.

    -- Posted by AmieG on Sun, Jul 7, 2013, at 2:27 PM
  • I was so sorry to hear of Grant's passing. He was so special and touched a lot of lives. I agree with the other folks that a discussion about death is best left to the parents.

    RIP Grant, you will be missed.

    -- Posted by JFitzy on Sun, Jul 7, 2013, at 2:39 PM
  • Dear Lagunagrl: You have no idea what children can & can't handle. Every age is different, every child is different. So rather than taking the chance of scaring the hell out of an innocent child, Aimee & the library decided to take the option of speaking with the parents when their child asked about Grant. his is a far better choice than taking the chance that a child could be haunted the rest of their life by death. What if the child just lost their mother? You have no way of knowing that. Your comment was not only ignorant, it was irresponsible & hurtful. Aimee's dogs are part of her family & she has a toddler that she had to explain Grant's death to. How dare you impose your reckless thoughts on other people's children. Your comments caused additional pain for someone who was already hurting from a loss. You owe Aimee an apology.

    -- Posted by on Sun, Jul 7, 2013, at 4:22 PM
  • Grant's story caught my interest and while I never knew anything of him, I'm sure Grant's passing is a lost to all who did know him and the children (and adults) who benefitted from his presence in the Library.

    What's really sad is the possibility that most of these comments have surely taken something away from the story's (and the writer's) purpose to give a bit of respect to the animal's contributions to our community.

    Hopefully there's enough people in the area who won't let these comments take anything away from Grant's memory and any follow-on posts will return to sharing memories of Grant!

    Rick Collins

    Spirit Lake

    -- Posted by Collinsr1957 on Mon, Jul 8, 2013, at 6:56 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: