Popular therapy dog retires after almost decade of service

- In a place where people so often reach for good news, Gracie fetches. Gracie is a 10-year-old Australian Shepherd who serves as a therapy dog that has helped thousands of patients at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital over roughly the last decade. But now, her bones are getting a little older.

“Gracie has arthritis, so she has some physical issues that it's kind of hard for her to make a long visits at the hospital, so it's time for her to retire,” said Sharon Evans, Gracie's owner and a member of the therapy dog group Tender Loving K-9's.

Gracie retired in style, with her entourage of therapy puppies, cake, treats and even some balls to chase at a party in the lobby of Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital on Wednesday.

Hospital staff members said she deserves it after all her work and her remarkable ability to get through to patients, even when doctors can't.

“The dogs are very good with stroke patients who relate to the dogs or may stroke their fur or talk to them when they haven't talked to any family members or nurses or doctors staff because they just don’t think about it,” said Evans. “They just instinctively reach out and want to talk to them.”

In another case, Gracie helped a patient overcome a coma.

“A patient that was in a coma, Gracie visited with her to help stimulate her system, and when this patient came out of the coma, she actually related having a dream about a dog coming to visit her,” said Evans.

For one doctor, the bond he's created with Gracie in easing the suffering of patients is irreplaceable.

“Gracie's a champ," said Dr. Mark Bing, an internist with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. "You can see she’s so friendly. We've had a special relationship, though for reasons I can't describe,” 

But the hole that Gracie leaves won't stay empty for long. Her sister Mercy will be taking her therapy pet place at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.

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