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When Superstorm Sandy displaced hundreds of nursing-home residents two years ago, Denali was there to help lessen the blow. Denali is a Spinone Italiano, who is a recipient of the prestigious AKC Humane Fund Empire State Award for Canine Excellence, a special ACE presented by Cornell University’s Baker Institute of Animal Health. The annual award is given to a hero dog from New York State. 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Denali made daily rounds at Brooklyn’s 15th Street Armory. For almost a month the Armory sheltered hundreds of displaced nursing-home residents, and Denali was a welcome distraction for elderly patients who suddenly found themselves homeless. One of them told us the soulful Spinone provided “courtesy, gentleness, and goodness beyond description.” 

But it doesn't take a natural disaster for Denali to make a visit. In fact, the 10-year-old therapy dog makes regular rounds at two hospitals, where he visits anyone who needs a smile: families, patients, and staff alike. 

Once, at the VA-hospital oncology ward where he’s a regular, a patient approached Denal’s owners and said, “You probably don’t remember me but you and your dog came into my room a year ago—I had no white count and they had given me a year to live. I’m alive today because of your dog!” 

Later, Denali became part of a groundbreaking study on canine cancer when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Read more about that here. 

See Denali and his owner Bob Ipcar in action at NY Methodist Hospital here:

 

Also, read more about Denali and other ACE winnners in AKC Family Dog

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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($9.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.