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February 2010

What is a True Friend?

Do you know what day it is? This is ‘Friendship Day’. In 1935 the US congress proclaimed the first day of August as the Day. Yes, I know this is not August One, but I think every day should be ‘Friendship Day’! In 1997, the United Nations named their ‘World’s Ambassador of Friendship’. Guess who it is? No less then that illustrious fellow, Winnie the Pooh! While Teddy Bears make wonderful friends, there is another animal that rates even higher on the friendship list. There is a story about Adam in the Garden of Eden…he was feeling very lonely one day, (this was before Eve was created) and was sitting on a rock with his head in his hands when all of a sudden he felt a cool, wet touch on his hand. Looking up, he looked into the big, brown eyes of a Labrador, and dogs have been man’s best friend ever since. Let me tell you a wonderful story of an organization called ‘East Coast Assistance Dogs’ (or Dogs of Peace) which was started by a lady named Lu Picard in Connecticut here in the US. She takes specially bred pups at two months old, and trains them for two years to help physically challenged people. What they learn to do is simply amazing, and I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second amazing thing that she has done is to take adolescents, who have emotional and behavioral problems, and trains them to train the dogs. She writes, “The effect of this work on the kids is wonderful to watch. Most of our students are struggling with anger and pain. They often feel incapable of giving or receiving love. Working with the dogs helps even the most difficult children establish a sense of self worth, and they learn to trust again. They also learn a strong work ethic that becomes invaluable to them”. Over the two years, the dogs learn to perform up to 80 commands. Apart from helping with every day activities, Lu has now added a special therapy program to assist soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trained by at-risk teens, these dogs pick up dropped objects, open and close doors, open refrigerators, pull wheelchairs, interrupt nightmares and flash backs, remind them to take their meds; all the while providing unconditional love and comfort. After the two years of training, comes graduation, which marks the final step for the trainers and is always an emotional event. It is not easy to say goodbye to the dogs, but the sense of pride and accomplishment makes it all worthwhile. For those of us with good health and who are able bodied, this may not seem that significant, but if we had a disabled child, a family member who was a paraplegic, or had a friend just returned from war service with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we would realize what a blessing and lifesaving work this is. I encourage you to visit her web site at www.ecad1.org WHAT ARE FRIENDS? The best of friends can change a frown into a smile when we feel down. The best of friends will understand our little trials and lend a hand. The best of friends, worth more than gold, give all the love a heart can hold. May God help us to be that kind of friend. Dear Father, We thank you for people like Lu Picard who spend their lives helping those who need some unconditional love and support. May we do our part by being friendly, and helping those in need who cross our path. Amen.

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