A 9-year-old survivor of last year’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has found comfort in a place many people wouldn’t expect: a stocky, 73-pound pit bull named Jeffrey.
While many would see Jeffrey and run for the hills, Sandy Hook fourth-grader Emma Wishneski considers him one of her closest friends – she even plans to bring a miniature, stuffed version of the dog with her on her upcoming first day of school.
Despite his hulking size – and unwarranted bad reputation – Jeffrey is a registered therapy dog whose job it is to put a smile on the face of a human who may be having a tough time, or suffering from a serious injury or disease.
And Jeffrey is very good at his job.
‘It all starts with a belly rub,’ Jeffrey’s owner, Michele Houston, told NBC’s Today. ‘He meets you, he flops on his back. Then his magic starts.’
Jeffrey’s healing powers almost were never realized – two years ago, he was one of hundreds of pit bulls in the New York City shelter system that was likely to be euthanized. Then a pit bull rescue group called Bruised Not Broken took an interest and attempted to find him a home by placing him on its advocacy website.
Ms. Houston, a hospice worker in Milford, Connecticut, found Jeffrey on the website and offered to adopt him just hours before he was scheduled to be euthanized.
Ms. Houston was never worried about Jeffrey being a pit bull – a breed of dog that has a stereotype of being aggressive and dangerous, a stigma Ms. Houston hopes to change.
‘Both ends of the leash are responsible for the future of these dogs,’ said Houston, who also brings Jeffrey to assisted living facilities, hospitals and school libraries to connect with elderly people, the sick, and struggling young readers.
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