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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Former children's therapy dog wins Pet of the Year award

  • For his 12 years, Donner served as a therapy dog for the Smoky Valley school district until he died of cancer Jan. 23, 2013.
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  • For his 12 years, Donner served as a therapy dog for the Smoky Valley school district until he died of cancer Jan. 23, 2013.
    Donner, a golden retriever, was honored with the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association's Professional Pet of the Year award Monday.
    The award was one of three given to pets who have made a noteworthy contribution to society. The other two awards for pets included hero and companion pet of the year.
    Jodie Norburg, special education teacher at Soderstrom Elementary in Lindsborg, and owner of Donner, said he became part of her family and her work after picking him up from Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services in Concordia in 2001, where he was trained as a therapy dog.
    "He would have this sense about people who had stress or needed comfort," Norburg said. "He'd find somebody who was stressed out and lay down next to them."
    Norburg said Donner was especially skilled at calming down children.
    "We'd have kids who had behavior issues or meltdowns, and within minutes, he would have them going from a tantrum to sobbing," she said.
    Donner was also a hero to the Norburg family. Norburg said she would have never found out her adopted son had seizures if not for the dog.
    "Donner was a hero when he helped us discover that our son was having seizures at night by entering his room and pawing at the floor," Norberg said. "After that night, Donnor would sleep with my son every night. I think my son misses Donner the most."
    Gary Reser, executive vice president of the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association, said Donner's story of service to both the school district and his family qualified him for the award.
    "We thought it was a very compelling story," Reser said. "And I think it worked out really well."
    Norburg said Donner could fit either of the categories for Pet of the Year.
    "He deserves the award," she said. "It's an honor for him.
    Joseph Tuszynski can be reached at jtuszynski@mcphersonsentinel.com, or follow him on Twitter @JoeTSentinel.

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