It will come as no surprise to dog lovers that dogs provide comfort to their owners. But there is one dog in the Hampshire area that has provided comfort to thousands of people of all ages.
Adeena’s story begins when the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church heard about a comfort dog program through Lutheran Church Charities. He thought it would be a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community. When he presented his idea to the church, the congregation unanimously voted in favor of paying $10,000 for a comfort dog.
Becoming a comfort dog is not quick or easy. Puppies are chosen based on their temperament and begin training when they are just 8 weeks old. Two thousand hours of training later, they are ready to be assigned to primary caretakers.
When Adeena began training, there were just 25 dogs in the program. Today, there are 130 dogs in 26 states across the country. And the waiting list is long – people wait 2 to 3 years for a comfort dog.
Adeena began providing comfort to others from the very beginning of her life. Her training took place in the prison in Dwight. Inmates (who passed a screening process) were required to complete coursework and training by professionals before they were ready to begin training Adeena. Imagine the purpose and comfort she gave those individuals!
When her training was completed, Adeena was sent to St. John’s Lutheran Church in December of 2010.
Adeena only goes where she is invited, and requests for her comfort were few and far between at first. Her initial outings were to places like local libraries and the fire department. But in 2011, she was deployed to her first disaster when a tornado ripped through the town of Joplin, Missouri. Later, she lent comfort to students and teachers after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Today, Adeena attends 25 to 35 events every month, all in the area. Besides her weekly trips to the library and every other week to the lunchrooms at Burlington Central and Kaneland high schools, she pays regular visits to facilities who serve adults with disabilities and assisted-living and memory care residences. She recently comforted students and teachers at Sycamore High School following the sudden death of a student and his mother.
Adeena’s primary caregivers are Shar and Dave Farran. They were also required to receive training on how to care for a comfort dog. Commands must be consistent so any handler can work with any comfort dog in the program. And Adeena is expected to follow a number of rules. “She is not allowed in the kitchen while we are cooking or eating,” said Shar, “and she must get permission to enter any room. Adeena is also not allowed to get treats or eat human food.” Even though they are strict with her special rules, they adore her and give her plenty of love.
Adeena is quite the celebrity. People can follow her on her own Facebook page at @adeenacomfortdog or on Instagram at #adeenacomfortdog. “She wags her tail every time she gets a new follower,” laughed Shar.
When I asked Shar if there was anything else I should share about Adeena, she replied, “Adeena truly loves everyone she meets and is a wonderful resource for the community,” she said. “She is ready to provide comfort for anything from funerals to floods and any natural or manmade disaster.”
We love Adeena here at Hampshire Animal Hospital, so I had to ask Shar about Adeena’s favorite vet. She answered, “Adeena loves all the doctors at Hampshire Animal Hospital, of course!”
Adeena turns 10 years old on February 6. Happy birthday, Adeena!