The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

July 2003



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 Hospital.

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 funerals.''

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.


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