FROM THE NATIONAL CHAPLAIN
BY REV.PHIL SALOIS, M.S.
Paul Glass, 1948-2003
Paul Glass, a Vietnam War veteran and
Michigan hospital volunteer who spent many hours working with
critically ill children, died Feb. 26 of kidney cancer at his home
in Clinton Township, Mich., a Detroit suburb. Glass and his
therapy dog, Chelsea, a golden retriever, were frequent visitors
for nine years to the Children's Hospital of Michigan and senior
citizen nursing homes. Ruth Glass-Schmidt, said her brother's work
may have "revolutionized'' pet therapy in hospital settings.
In 1995, after Glass' mother suffered a debilitating stroke and
required round the clock medical care in a nursing home, Glass
asked nursing home officials if he could come by with Chelsea to
visit. Given permission to do so, Glass soon noticed that other
patients in the nursing home looked forward to his visits.
In 1997, after training Chelsea and having the dog tested by the
American Kennel Club for obedience and good citizenship (a test of
disposition to see how the dog responded to strangers), he joined
Therapy Dogs International and began working at Children's
Shortly after Glass was diagnosed with cancer on New Year's Eve,
Ursula A. Kempe, founder and director of Therapy Dogs
International, sent a message to the organization: ``Paul has
accumulated 1,200 volunteer hours at Children's Hospital alone. He
has not even attempted to keep records of the numerous hours spent
at other institutions (hospitals, nursing homes and schools).
Paul's dedication to many of the fatally ill children whose days
he brightened is too remarkable for words. He and his dog,
Chelsea, sat casket-side, offering support to the very end.
Chelsea, who provided support alongside Paul for so many people,
is now solely devoted to him. She will not leave his side.''
Glass' sister said that support often came at a high emotional
price for Glass. He had chosen to work with the worst of the worst
medical cases - pediatric oncology cases, brain injuries and
illnesses, cases that often led to the death of children and the
emotional devastation that came with it.
"Chelsea would get the kids to do things the professionals
couldn't,'' Glass-Schmidt said. "The children responded and Paul
became very close to them. The funerals were very hard on him. He
often couldn't go back for several weeks after one of those
Schmidt said that under normal circumstances therapy dog handlers
try to visit as many patients as possible when making hospital
visits. The numbers of patients often meant the dog would
spend only about five minutes with each. She said Glass often went
well beyond this and the extended time brought remarkable results.
"Paul would spend a minimum of an hour with each patient,'' she
said. "Sometimes he'd spend all afternoon. He was forming a bond
between child and dog that nobody else in the therapy dog field
was doing. That's why families called the hospital to see if they
could have Paul there on the day of surgery or a birthday or
whatever the occasion. He'd rearrange his work schedule so he
could be there.''
After being diagnosed with cancer, Glass told a local newspaper
reporter that he was certain Chelsea knew something was wrong,
that having worked for so long with other seriously ill people,
the dog sensed that Glass now was ill.
"She was always close, but more now,'' he told The Macomb
Daily. "The children in the neighborhood have offered to take
her out for walks and to play with her and she won't go. She just
sticks with me and keeps her eyes on me.''
Glass was 54 when he died.