Barney the St. Bernard is riding off into the sunset and we’re having a party to celebrate him!
The trained dog, who helps kids gain confidence in their reading, is retiring and we’re hosting a retirement open house for all his friends and reading partners to come back and celebrate him.
From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 19 at the downtown library, join us for treats and a chance to say good bye to Barney and maybe read him one last story.
There’s no need to register for a session this time, it is an open house event.
“The kids get to interact with something that loves unconditionally. He’s just a good listener – he absorbs every word and he doesn’t interrupt or correct or question them,” handler Renee Langdon says. “I’ve been blessed to be able to work with him and watch the children improve.”
Barney’s journey to become a therapy dog was difficult. Langdon rescued him eight years ago after he was abandoned near Wakarusa. He already was blind and had leg injuries consistent with abuse, she says.
“He had to learn to trust again,” Langdon says. “He couldn’t walk on a leash. You couldn’t put him in a car. The injuries to his front left leg weren’t anything that couldn’t be repaired, but it was a rough start.”
He eventually defeated his fears and became a good companion to Drew, Langdon’s first St. Bernard. Despite his blindness, Barney eventually passed the same exam required for certification as a registered Pet Partners therapy dog.
Pet-assistance therapy goes beyond guide dogs. They provide comfort at hospital entrances, Langdon says, and companionship at nursing homes. They have visited schools and libraries regularly, too.
Langdon has committed her volunteer time for years to working with children, particularly those challenged by autism or disability. She worked with Reins of Life for therapeutic horseback riding until, physically, she couldn’t meet the demands of mucking stalls and hauling hay bales.
She says she adopted a St. Bernard because she always wanted one growing up. During her first three years, Langdon volunteered several hours each week making visits. After Drew passed on and with Barney advancing in years, she’s had to scale back to schedule.
“I think this is best described as giving and receiving love. Barney takes it in and he dishes it out – it’s his job to love,” Langdon says.