Walking into the Eisenberg household in Boynton Beach, you’re immediately greeted by a friendly, but quiet pup.
His name is Kol, and he’s an 8-year-old golden retriever. But he’s not just any dog, he’s a therapy dog, volunteering the last six years to comfort students during final exams, patients in hospice and rehab, and families piecing together their lives after escaping domestic violence.
But it was his time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this year that is giving him recognition: the American Kennel Club has awarded him the AKC Humane Fund ACE Awards.
“I always knew he was special, but it was like that wow factor,” his owner, Jane Eisenberg, says about her dog comforting students. “I didn’t realize how special until [the shooting] happened.”
On Feb. 14, 2018, South Florida was turned upside down when 17 students and teachers were killed at MSD. Eisenberg knew Kol was needed, so the next day she took him to Parkland at a command center where family was gathered.
“I think he smelled that it was different,” she says of her dog. “He didn’t take a pee break, he didn’t take a water break. He felt he was needed and he wasn’t going to leave that room.”
For years he has volunteered at Palm Beach State College, a rehab facility, hospice, and at AVDA, but only for one or two hours at a time. After the shooting, he stayed with those suffering for seven hours. He went from person to person, group to group, to be pet, cuddle, or let people cry into his fur.
When school went back in session, Kol was a fixture at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the rest of the year. He would visit the students and was always there for them as they went through the highs and lows of recovering from the tragedy and the trauma it inflicted on them. He was also at the school during a code red alert.
“There was a lot of kids struggling,” Eisenberg says. “There’s still some kids struggling this year but I think as time goes on, kids are healing.”
For all those hours he spent with the students and faculty at MSD, the American Kennel Club has included him in the ranks of five exemplary dogs. The others are a service dog, search and rescue dog, companion dog, and a fellow dog from Florida, Copper the K9 officer from Cocoa. Each is awarded $1,000 to go to the animal charity of their choice.
Before his career as a therapy dog, Kol was an American Kennel Club grand champion. He’s also been recognized by the AKC as Therapy Dog Distinguished for completing at least 400 therapy dog visits.
Interviews with the owners of each of the five dogs will be aired on Jan. 1, 2019 during the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin on Animal Planet.