BALLSTON LAKE, N.Y. - A Ballston Lake man and his therapy dog volunteered their time to help the victims of the Connecticut school shooting to offer some healing and compassion.
"Eli" is a therapy dog who visits Albany Medical Center patients and their loved ones to give them a few moments of happiness and relaxation after an otherwise stressful time. Eli's owner, medical student Reynold Henry can talk at length about how the Golden Retriever's calming presence lowers the blood pressure and slows the heart rate.
But scientifically Reynold cannot explain how Eli seems to know who needs him the most. "When we're in the hospital, it's weird but he tends to want to stay in rooms where people are not doing well. He tends to stay there longer," he explains.
Eli helps not just the sick, but also the disheartened. Two weeks ago, Reynold and Eli were naturally drawn to one place in America that probably needed the most cheering-up.
Reynold learned of the need for therapy dogs in Newtown and he contacted the Hudson Valley Golden Retriever Club who told him Eli's services would come in handy.
Reynold brought Eli to several memorials where people were grieving the 26 students and staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Eli brought many smiles to Newtown that day, but the person Reynold says he will never forget is the one who did not smile.
"While we were at the memorial, a little boy came-up," Reynold says. "He was probably six or seven. He was with his mom. He asked if he could pet Eli and I said, 'absolutely.'"
The boy sat with Eli for a good ten minutes, didn't say a word or smile. Reynold says that little boy symbolized the grief in Newtown. But Eli stayed with him just as he does with patients at Albany Med, showing that sense of compassion that makes him a true volunteer.
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