Back in 1999 when Eloise and Bud Sulzman, of Vineland, rescued a Cocker Spaniel named Cookie, she was an eight-month-old puppy with a serious case of mange.

“We were going to find another home for her, after we cleared up the mange,” said Eloise, 70. “We already had three older dogs and cats.”

But the first treatment didn’t work, and by the time the mange was gone, so was the resolve to part with her.

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And that’s a good thing. Because Cookie became a great therapy dog, giving Eloise a new focus after retiring in 2003 as a social worker for the state of New Jersey.

Cookie became one of the first reading assistance dogs at the Vineland Public Library, for a program called Puppy Tales. It was created by former library Community Relations Coordinator Anita Lupcho, and modeled after the national Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program.

This month through February there’s an exhibit called “One Sweet Cookie” at the library, as a  tribute to the therapy dog, who died September 6 at age 15. It was created by Eloise and her friend Adrienne Possenti, who has done many other displays for the library, to show how Cookie helped hundreds of people over more than a decade.

Cookie was trained for the program, and got certified as a therapy dog. She would sit and listen as youngsters read to her and other volunteer dogs.

“My husband didn’t believe Cookie or other dogs could sit in a room with all the other dogs and not be distracted, but they all did it,” Eloise said. “Cookie was one of the favorites. Everybody will tell you that. It introduced us to what she could do.”

Over the years she also visited people in nursing homes, especially Lincoln Specialty Care on Lincoln Avenue in Vineland, and in schools.

Eventually Cookie even became something of a partner in Eloise’s private practice as a licensed clinical social worker.

“I even had her on my (business) cards for a very long time, ‘Therapy dog available upon request’,” said Eloise. “She was always a hit, and not just with the kids.”

Bud, 80, retired as the principal of Upper Deerfield Township’s Moore School in 1994, and now runs a pet sitting business called Bud’s Pet Home Care. He and Eloise also rescue Brittany Spaniels.

Now Eloise is thinking of getting another Cocker Spaniel, but doesn’t know if she will try to train the new pup as an official therapy dog.

But any pet provides a type of therapy, she said.

“Being a social worker I have gone to a lot of different seminars on animal-assisted therapies, self-esteem workshops,” she said. “Often they ask people to think of something that makes you smile, and they ask, ‘How many of you thought of a pet?’“ Eloise said. “There are always a lot of people who raise their hands.”

IF YOU GO:

Reception for the Tribute to Cookie, 1 p.m. Jan. 31, Vineland Public Library, 1058 E. Landis Ave., Vineland. Call 856-794-4244.

Lacey sisters join Phillies

Lacey Township college students and sisters Jenna and Joanna Fleck were recently chosen to join the Phillies Ballgirls.

Joanna, 22, is a student at West Chester University; and Jenna, 20, is a student at The College of New Jersey. Both are lifelong athletes and softball players, said proud dad, Joe Fleck.

“Ballgirls are the face of the Phillies. We represent the team on and off the field,” said Jenna. She said it is a paid position and this year’s 13 rookies were chosen from a field of hundreds of applicants.

The ballgirls make personal appearances at games and in the community, and are ambassadors for the team, according to The Phillies.

Seventy young women were chosen after looking at tryout videos and resumes, and of that group 20 were chosen to return for a personal interview, she said.

The rookies join 11 returnees, for a total of 24 Ball Girls, Jenna said.

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In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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