Kol, a Grand Champion Bronze Golden Retriever, is one of five, loyal companion dogs who won the 19th annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE). The winners will be honored at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, Florida, December 15-16, 2018.
There is a reason Jane Eisenberg has labeled her pet Kol her “heart dog” and the “magic man.”
The beloved 8-year-old Grand Champion Bronze Golden Retriever — his show name is Gemini’s House of the Rising Sun — seemingly has no limits when it comes to turning everyone’s tears and torment into smiles and serenity.
And that’s why the duo from Boynton Beach, Florida, will be honored at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, Florida, in December with the AKC Humane Funds Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) Therapy Dog honor.
Certified by PAWS Assistance Dogs in Naples, Florida, Kol has taken his “magic show” on the road for six years — from hospice facilities to schools.
“I began noticing Kol’s therapy dog potential before one year,” says Eisenberg. “His temperament was awesome. One of the first examples was when our daughter Samantha was sitting on the couch upset about something and tears began rolling down her face. Kol jumped up on her lap, quickly began washing away her tears with his tongue and snuggled up against her offering comfort.”
Upon getting therapy dog certification before age 2, Kol — and Eisenberg — have gone nonstop in making Floridians’ lives happier.
The mental dynamics of the challenge has never seemed to get the best of Kol. “He has a sense of calmness and the ability to completely make one feel comfortable in any environment from stress over the loss of loved ones and friends to exams,” explains Eisenberg. “He knows who to focus on and what I call work his magic. I have seen him wait patiently for an individual to finish her conversation in a group setting before approaching to offer comfort. When the subject turned and faced him with tears running down her cheek, she embraced Kol, and they sat on the floor together for quite some time. His intuitiveness is sharp!”
While the age of Kol’s Kingdom seemingly has no limits, Eisenberg’s most vivid memories stem from the team’s continuous interaction with students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, following the shootings Feb. 14, 2018.
This heart dog seemed to save his best for the aftermath of this Valentine’s Day tragedy.
“It was supposed to be a day of love,” says Eisenberg, “and turned out to be a horrific day for the entire community.”
“I began watching the news late in the day about what transpired at the school. I had sitting next to me a once-in-a-lifetime dog that can deeply connect with people. I knew I had to help. It was our calling. When my husband, Bruce, arrived home from work I told him that we were going to Parkland to offer our help. Little did I know it would be the most difficult thing we would see or do in our career.”
They spent two seven-hour days offering comfort to students, faculty, and parents at the nearby command center. That was just the beginning. Once school reopened days later, they went to the campus daily Monday through Friday, remaining all day through finals months later.
Kol and Eisenberg became fixtures in Room 723 (a separate building on campus directly across from the structure where the shootings occurred), at which the dog bonded with many students. “The first few weeks were part of the healing process. Kol would lie there, and the kids would pet him. Some would talk, others were silent. Some would cuddle, and others would take selfies with Kol. Toward the end of the third week, I started to see some smiles,” she adds.
Kol had a routine where he would greet the kids at the door. As the year progressed, Kol would remain in front of the room until the teacher would finish with instructions and classwork was complete. Then it was free time, and the students would hang out with their four-legged buddy, playing tug-of-war or tossing a ball.
“Test day was always a little difficult,” Eisenberg recalls. “Kol would sense those who were stressed and wanted to go over to them and offer some comfort. I had to keep him by my side, however.”
During the remainder of the school year, students who were not part of the classroom began to trickle in to just say hi to Kol. By then he was establishing a fan club.
“The days that we would leave the room Kol would take his stuffed animal in his mouth and walk alongside the teacher and myself to our next destination. He would stick his head into every classroom checking on everyone as we passed by, asking ‘Is everyone OK?’ The kids and teachers got a charge out that. As we would walk through the corridors, the phones would be rolling, and pictures were taken of Kol with his stuffy.”
“He became besties with the seniors. They all loved him and insisted he partake in Senior Day 2019. They even supplied him with a crown.”
To maintain their bustling therapy dog schedule elsewhere, Kol and Eisenberg eventually limited their school visitations to around four hours Wednesdays and Fridays. Rather than sitting in Room 723, they are situated outside the cafeteria before and during lunch, interacting with students and staff. Many of those who graduated in the spring, maintain contact through Kol’s Instagram account.
Kol strikes an ideal balance between friend and helper on all of his stops.
Here’s a rundown of the plucky team’s other regular visits in Florida:
Trustbridge Hospice: Formerly weekly for six years, now every other week. “Both of my parents went through hospice, and I wanted to give back,” says Eisenberg. Kol offers comfort not only to patients and family members but the staff, too.
It is one of the most challenging environments because it takes a special dog to understand the concept of hospice and Kol gets it. He has the ability, Eisenberg emphasizes, to offer a calming effect to those in need — patients and families — when he gently licks their hands and leans close to them, allowing them to hug or pet him. On occasion, he has even crawled into bed with a patient.
Hospice takes its emotional toll on staff, too, and Kol recognizes that offering up love and compassion. “It’s amazing how belly rubs can bring huge smiles to the staff because of the smell of death and illness,” she notes.
“Now that Kol is older he seems more adjusted to all the smells and room temperatures. But if I see signs of him showing stress, I will remove him from the environment and let him rest.”
Boynton Beach Nursing Home: The 90-bed facility once was a weekly stop for six years, but now the pair visits twice monthly. Located 10 minutes from home, this is one of Eisenberg’s most fulfilling destinations, since some patients have no visitors. “I love it when we walk down the hall, and residents call out, ‘It’s Kol!’ Most don’t even know my name but as I always say, it’s not about me, it’s about Kol and the unconditional love he serves up to everyone.”
AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse): The duo has been visiting the Florida shelter for approximately four years. Children come and go, but Kol, Eisenberg emphasizes, has made a significant impact on countless lives here. He is especially protective over infants, making sure their diapers are clean by gently nudging the baby’s bottom.
“The children can’t wait to pet him, play dress-up, read to him, or play ball,” adds the owner. “Sometimes it’s just one child talking with Kol in a corner. He or she might have had a bad day at school and just need some hands-on love. Kol doesn’t judge them; he rests there giving kisses, making all their worries disappear for the moment. Keep in mind, these children have been displaced. They have lost their homes, their pets and have been abused or witnessed abuse.”
Eisenberg recalls one incident when a youngster who lost his beloved pet could not face or walk near Kol because of the raw hurt. “Kol knew not to enter his personal space because the child was grieving and this was not the time to offer him comfort. Several visits later the two came together, which initiated their healing process.”
Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center: For a couple of years, the pair has been volunteering here. The focus is on special-needs children during the summer and vacation periods. Ages range from 5 to teens. Sessions include group and individual.
“When Kol enters the room,” says Eisenberg, “his nose goes up into the air as he is sensing something is different. When the children enter the gym without me telling him, he lays down, allowing them to pet, hug, and lay on him. What follows, is almost a sense of calmness.”
Palm Beach State College: Visits are scheduled during midterm and finals weeks when students are feeling the stress. Kol is a big hit and the subject of countless selfies. “It amazes me,” she says, “to see them walk in tense and leave totally relaxed ready to take on their exam.” They also have visited Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University, both in Boca Raton.
On the home front in the couple’s 55-plus community, Kol’s best friend is his Golden housemate, Moses, 10.
“It only fits that Kol’s No. 1 buddy is right here at home,” concludes Eisenberg, “for he gives so much to others on the outside.”
Learn more about our other ACE winners:
The AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin will take place Saturday to Sunday, December 15 to 16, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. Tune in to AKC.TV, or download the AKC.TV app on Roku, Apple TV, orAmazonFireTV to catch the live stream starting on Saturday, December 15 at 12 p.m. ET. Watch the TV premiere on New Year’s Day on Animal Planet at 6 p.m. ET. Encore performance airs at 12 a.m. ET.