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CES goes to the dog for Volunteer of the Year

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Nicky recognized for work with children

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Nicholas' start in life was not a good one. He was on the lam and living off the land when an accident almost finished him off.

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“He had been hit by a car and had a broken pelvis,” said his handler Sharron Bowker.

 But Bowker's daughter Kathy picked up the injured pup and nurtured him back to good health. It was a good indicator of what was in Kathy's future, as she is now a veterinarian at Suwannee Valley Vet Clinic. 

Bowker noticed Nicky had a special destiny in his future. 

Every Thursday, the two walk over to Chiefland Elementary School and Nicky sits patiently as the children read to him and he watches as they do work on the computer, offering his encouragement with a nuzzle.  

For his work, Nicky has been named the Volunteer of the Year for 2013-2014. Recently, Bowker was presented with a floral arrangement and Nicky got a bag of all-natural designer dog treats in appreciation. “I am pleased that he's getting recognized, Bowker said. “He's good for the kids.”

This is Nicky's seventh year of working with children, Bowker said. 

Nicky's story reads like a series of miracles: First the family was not going to stop, then they did, but they were not going to pick up the pup, but Kathy did, and they were not going to keep the pup, but they did. It's such a good story the Bowker family has written a book about Nicky. 

“So we got him and tried to find his owner and tried to find him a home,” Bowker said. “We don't think he was a year old when we got him. He wasn't mistreated but he had been on the lam for a while because he was skin and bones.”

Then Bowker, a retiree started to notice Nicky loved being around children. “He's just the most gentle dog. He gets along with everybody.” But he likes one group more than the others. 

“We started taking him around and realized how much he loved children,” she said. So the family worked to get Nicky registered as a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs Inc.

The certification requires three tests of the dog's ability to be calm in three situations. One test had an unexpected situation that proved Nicky's gentle nature: A child ran over the dog's paw with a wheelchair. “He kind of grimaced,” Bowker said. “And he just put his head in that boy's lap.”

Now he proudly ears the red vest that tells the world he is a working therapy dog. 

Bowker said, “He came to us so good. He had what he needed to become a therapy dog.”

Each year, Nicky gets a new class of children. One year he worked with second grade students, another it was kindergarten, and another it was third grade students. This year he is working in Mrs. Lloyd and Mrs. Pomeroy's classes. 

“I think his best set is in the special education classroom,” Bowker said. “He is really good bringing out children with autism. He's not doing it this year but in other years we have.”

And Nicky loves it when the children give him treats, Bowker said. 

When he's not volunteering at the school, Nicky likes to go for car rides, likes to go to Tractor Supply. 

“He loves parades, he loves the bands and sirens and those things don't upset him,” Bowker said. He loves the horses in the parades as well. He likes to get his belly patted. 

The only thing he does not like: having his picture taken. “It's hard to get a good picture of him.”

Bowker is just amazed at how the wet pile of fur her family rescued turned out. 

“He was just a dog nobody wanted and he turned out so wonderful.”