Longest-Working Therapy Dog At Children’s Hospital Retires After 11 Years

For more than a decade, Abe the Golden Retriever helped lift the spirits of the hospital's youngest patients and their families.

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Abe at the hospital
Abe served as a registered therapy dog at Seattle Children's for 11 years. Via Seattle Children's
Stephanie Brown

After more than decade of cheering up sick kids at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, Abe the therapy dog is hanging up his ID badge.

The beloved four-legged volunteer recently retired so that he can enjoy a little rest and relaxation in his Golden Years. Abe began providing comfort to patients at Seattle Children’s as a therapy dog when he was 2 years old. He first had to undergo obedience training, and then therapy dog training.

Puppy Abe

Abe was just a puppy when he started training for the job. Via Seattle Children’s

“I always said he was born to be a therapy dog,” Judith Bonifaci, Abe’s owner and handler, told Seattle Children’s website. “From the moment I met him, I could tell he was an old soul who had a special purpose in life.”

During his once a week, two hour visits, the Golden Retriever provided a calming presence to patients and their families. He let them pet him and eagerly accepted their treats. He also helped lift the spirits of medical staff. Abe often made a lasting impression on those he met.

Abe on the job

Abe comforted young patients and their families. Via SeattleChildrens/YouTube

“Just recently, when we entered a patient room for a visit, a mother took one look at him and said, ‘That’s not Abe, is it? It can’t be!’” Bonifaci said. “When I told the mother that it was, she explained to me that her son had been admitted to the Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit about 10 years ago. During their hospital stay, she and her family had been visited by a golden retriever who memorably lifted their spirits in a challenging time — that dog just happened to Abe.”

As a senior dog, the visits got to be too much for Abe. Difficulty breathing and a spinal issue prompted his retirement, but his legacy will live on in the lives of the people he helped.

“I’m not sure how much time Abe has left,” Bonifaci said. “But what I do know is he was able to fulfill his incredible purpose of making a difference in people’s lives, which was what I had always hoped for.”

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