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Your Stories: Woman, Dog Make Sick Children Feel Better

Published on 7/3/2008
VERNON, Conn. -- A Vernon woman and her dog, known as Claire and Bear, have come to be a bright spot for children during difficult times. "The kids will see him and they just seem to forget what's going on around them other than the dog," said Claire Rolando. Bear participates in a program called Pedi Pal, which is run by the Connecticut Visiting Nurses Association Partners. He visits children who are terminally ill, in hospice or have life-limiting diseases. 

Bear recently made his third visit to Anthony, an 11-year-old Hartford boy who has muscular dystrophy. "He looks more like a bear," Anthony said. Anthony's mom, Brenda, said she values the visits. "He got excited. He wanted to see the dog," Brenda said.

"He seems to instinctively know how a patient - whether they're frail, whether they're able to interact - how well they're doing," Rolando said. 

Bear and Rolando have been making house calls since 2005. "For the parents and the children, it seems to be way more than we can even conceive of. I don't know how you don't do it. And anybody can do it. I'm just a person next door," Rolando said. 

Anthony’s mother said he is always in the house, so the visits mean a lot. “He doesn't do much, so for people to come visit him it's a big deal for him," she said. "Just to see the smile on their face, to be told they won’t see anyone else, but they're willing to see the dog. It means a lot," Rolando said. 

Bear came into Rolando’s live after she saw him on NBC 30 during a Sunday morning segment called Best Friends.