Gilligan the Boston terrier pranced out into the gathering of residents to the sound of clapping and gasps of joy. The 9-year-old pup is a superstar at the Oceanview Center for Rehabilitation and Continuing Care, and his owner, Jennifer Hess, said he knows it.
"He's such a ham," Hess, an administrator at Oceanview, said last Wednesday. "Wait until Monday, his (ego) might not fit through the door."
Gilligan is a certified therapy dog who on March 29 received a Hero award given by congressional order at a K-9 Service Dog Veterans Day observance in Morton, Pa. The event recognized K-9 officers, service and therapy dogs from organizations in the Philadelphia area who selflessly serve humanity, Hess said.
Gilligan works at Oceanview every day with Hess. She said he makes rounds with her and can immediately identify which residents want or need to see him.
"I had a resident recently who was not doing well," Hess said. "Gilligan stayed in bed with that resident for hours."
The residents who are dog lovers adore Gilligan, Hess said. Last year, for his birthday in June, Gilligan rode on a float throughout Oceanview and visited all the residents. The terrier also frequently dons sweaters and costumes from elves to Elvis.
Gilligan started working at Oceanview when he was 11 weeks old. Hess said the residents would carefully pass him around, and he would nuzzle into them.
At 1, Gilligan took the test to become a certified therapy dog. He's trained to withstand offers of table scraps from residents during mealtimes, and is able to go to residents to whom Hess points.
"He rarely takes a day off. He doesn't enjoy resting," Hess said.
At 9, Gilligan is relatively healthy; however, last year, for the first time, he had a reaction to necessary vaccinations that he received.
"I was really scared for him at that time," Hess said.
Without the vaccinations, Gilligan will not be able to continue a career in therapy. This year, Hess and Gilligan's veterinarian plans to scatter the vaccinations, in an effort to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
For Hess, a therapy dog is a necessary because she works long hours and wouldn't want to continually leave a pet at home.
At the award ceremony on Saturday, Gilligan received grooming, laser and massage treatments for his achievement of reaching "Hero" status.
"All Boston terriers want is to be with people," Hess said. "Gilligan loves his job."
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