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December 24, 2013

Local resident takes a ‘paws’ for doing good

TIFTON —

When Dick Morrison puts on his vest, he knows it's time to work. So does his French bulldog, Jillian.

Now a little over 4 years old, Jillian has been working for quite some time, and when she dons her vest that bears a patch which tells the world she's a therapy dog, she gets right down to business. Morrison has been taking Jillian to visit nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals for a couple of years now. And she seems to enjoy it just as much as the patients do.

Morrison currently takes Jilly to Cypress Pond, Golden Living and to the transitional unit at Tift Regional Medical Center. He's been doing so since his move to Tifton in July.

Morrison said his wife passed away five years ago in Florida, and he moved to Virginia to be near his daughter. During that time, he became attached to the French bulldog, Bella, owned by his daughter and her family. 

"She was the belle of the ball. Susan (his daughter) says, 'Would you like to have one?' and I says, it would be nice for the company," he said. He soon got a call from her. 

"She asked how much I'd like to spend on a dog. I said I'd probably go about $500. She called back about a half hour later and said, 'Get your check ready, we've got a dog for you.' They didn't tell me how much she really cost; I just wrote my check and I put 'downpayment' on it, and we just went from there," he said, laughing.

As Morrison became acquainted with some people in that area through the puppy classes he took Jillian to, he learned about the therapy dogs program, and became interested. He said it took about two years for Jillian to be properly trained and to pass the test to be a therapy dog. 

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