In an office full of toys and color, a small spot in the corner is set aside with a blanket. This is the resting space for Gracie, Day One’s in-house therapy dog. Whenever Gracie is in the office, there is a noticeable change in both the clients and
the staff as she walks around the halls and greets anyone she sees.
Paula Marcello, LMHC Clinician and RN at Day One, has had Gracie for nine years and describes her as “simply remarkable.” Paula actually rescued Gracie from an abusive home while working in a program called Project Connect. “I wasn’t looking for a dog,” says Paula. “But that all changed when I was doing home visiting.”
The first time she met Gracie, Paula was struck by her sweet and friendly nature, but noted that she was head-shy and would often keep her head down or flinch away from people’s hands. Dogs often develop this behavior if they have faced abuse in the past. “I knew Gracie was special, and I had this inner feeling that I was going to get her eventually.”
Paula was determined to give Gracie a happier life, and started by christening her with a new name: Gracie. Her previous name was Diamond, but Paula wanted something that emphasized her gentle and graceful nature.
From there, Paula started bringing Gracie to visit her mother in a nursing home. Gracie would poke her head into the rooms and the residents were always so happy to see her. “That’s when I knew she would be healing for people,” says Paula. “Everybody that’s met her knows she’s special.”
Now, Gracie is a constant presence at Day One’s office. On breaks, the two go for walks. “I don’t even have to put her on the leash,” says Paula. “She just walks with me.”
Gracie is also famous for checking on people in the waiting areas. “She’s so smart that she knows who needs attention,” says Paula. In the past, Gracie has walked over to clients and tapped them with her head in a comforting gesture. “If she feels like someone is kind of off, she’ll go and lie down next to them. If they’re anxious, they can just pet her,” says Paula. In between visiting clients, she lies in the hall while clients and staff members alike stop to sit with her.
Some of Day One’s clients have developed extremely close relationships with Gracie. One client brings her a bone every week, which Gracie hides among her little blanket in Paula’s office. Clients often take pictures with Gracie and send them to Paula, who prints them out and places them on a corkboard.
One picture, titled “Gracie
Looking Upwards,” perfectly demonstrates the love and positivity Gracie represents.
For one long-time client named Liz, Gracie has made all the difference. Gracie will often accompany Liz for her therapy appointments and has been doing so for about a year and a half. While Liz initially felt uncomfortable coming to the agency and talking in sessions, Gracie has helped her feel more secure. “I literally feel ecstatic when I am able to run down the hall and see her sitting there,” says Liz. “Every time I arrive at Day One, she notices me immediately. She always gets up, wags her tail, and gives me her paw. I love her like my own.”
For Paula, seeing the relationship between Gracie and clients like Liz is always amazing. “I’ve had people call and ask to see the ‘therapist with the dog,’” says Paula, laughing. “She’s just so wonderful with people.”
It is amazing to witness the way Gracie supports and comforts our clients; something a “human therapist” just can’t copy.