Who Cares about Ernest?

Author Peggy Frezon wrote about animals who help kids—including several therapy dogs—in Dog in the Dentist Chair.  Here is the inspiring story of her own therapy dog, and how he helped a young girl. 

God brings special dogs into our lives, and last year he brought us a dog we named Ernest. I knew Ernest would make a good therapy dog from the moment we adopted him. He was eight years old and been kept in a cage day and night by his former owner. “I didn’t take good care of him, but who cares?” she said. She didn’t even say goodbye when the rescue worker led him away.

Ernest could barely contain his joy when he charged into our house, his thick red fur a filthy mess. Had he ever been out of his cage, free to romp over the rug and sprawl out on the best chair in a house? “Don’t worry, you’re loved here,” I said. Who cared about Ernest? My husband and I certainly did.


Ernest was so starving for the human touch that he clung to my side. He’d lay still as a summer breeze as long as I’d pat him, and cry whenever I stopped. And I thought, a dog who was that intent on being touched would surely make an excellent therapy dog.

So we enrolled him in a training course, and he passed his test, no problem. “He was born to be a therapy dog,” the trainer said. And I thought, he most certainly was not born to sit in a cage in a home where no one cared about him.


One of our first jobs was at a library in a rough community with a failing school district. I prayed that God would guide us to help whoever arrived, but not a single child showed up for the story hour. Maybe the kids and their parents thought, who cares about a worn-out, old, therapy dog anyway?


Then a young girl and her mother wandered into the library, unaware of the program. The librarian ushered them into the room where Ernest sat still as could be. It was obvious that the girl was afraid, and very shy. He mother smiled apologetically and turned to lead her out of the room. But before they left I knelt down and asked the girl if she might like to pat Ernest, that he’d just come from a home where he didn’t get enough attention, and that we’d adopted him. A big smile spread across the girl’s face. She bravely approached Ernest and ran her little hand down his back. Kneeling beside them, I heard her whisper in his ear, “I’m adopted too.” The two sat together for a very long time. The girl smiled and hugged her new friend. And Ernest got all the pats he could ever want.

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