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Tuesday January 18th, 2022 6:23AM

Therapy dog debuts at Forsyth Co. Senior Services

By Lauren Hunter Multimedia Journalist

He may be the new kid on the block, but Hank, the six-month-old Labradoodle mix, is already making an impact at the Forsyth County Senior Services Center.

"Just a couple of days ago, I had a lady come in, it was her first time meeting Hank and she's petting him smiling and she said, 'Hank, I love you,'" said Hunter Bennett, Community Relations person for Forsyth County Senior Services and Hank's handler. "In our memory support program, we had a gentleman in there that was petting [Hank] one day and he looks at me with clarity in his eyes and he tells me that his grandfather had a dog just like Hank."

Bennett said Hank has been coming to work with him every day for the last month. The pair visits with those participating in the senior center's recreational, memory support and congregate programs.

"Hank makes his rounds through all of those different programs, just to be exposed to as many people as he can, and to touch as many people as he can," said Bennett.

Naturally, everyone at the senior center loves Hank. Visitors and staff will scratch Hank's head, ears, and happily receive some doggie kisses.

Last year, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced seven Labradoodle puppies were making their way through the Forsyth County Pups with Purpose program.

Hank was one of those pups.

"By the time I got Hank, he had already had so much love poured into him," said Bennett. "There were two different times on the day I picked him up from the jail that I thought people were going to cry, talking about how special he was."

The Pups with Purpose program pairs inmates at the Forsyth County Jail with unwanted dogs from the Forsyth County Animal Shelter.

Inmates train the dogs for the purpose of helping them to find a home. But Hank and his six siblings were trained for a higher purpose- to serve as therapy dogs at government buildings, schools and even a hospital.

"We actually just yesterday completed our beginner obedience class, which I think is mostly for me as handler than it is him," Bennett said, chuckling. "We're now going to be moving on to an advanced obedience course, and that is being conducted through Scot Rucker Dog Training."

When he is not on duty, Hank lives with Bennett and his family.

Bennett said he has a special connection with Hank, which started before the two even met.

"In July, my wife had a baby girl...we had picked a boy name and a girl name, and my boy name pick was Hank," said Bennett. "I got this dog assigned to me already named Hank and I almost fell in the floor the day I got the email."

Bennett said he lost his dog, Sam, suddenly this year and now pours the love he had for Sam into Hank.

Hank returns the favor.

To see some footage of Hank and Bennett in action, click the video link above.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News, Videos
  • Associated Tags: Forsyth County, Forsyth County Senior Services, therapy dog, Pups with Purpose, Hank
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