BELOVED POOCH: Ceremony planned to honor therapy canine

COLUMBIA CITY — She was everybody’s friend for nearly nine years at the Oaks Nursing Home in Columbia City.The chocolate Labrador named Kenia died Feb. 16 and her ashes are currently safely tucked away in Administrator Chad Smyth’s office. Those ashes are being brought out and spread around a new tree in Kenia’s memory this week.Everyone has the opportunity to memorialize this special trained therapy canine with a ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday at The Oaks in Columbia City.“Kenia was so friendly with everyone,” said Julia Osterman, activity director at The Oaks.“She would go room-to-room greeting everyone. The patients would feed her. That was so sweet and that’s why she became so overweight.”The celebration of Kenia’s life will take place in the front yard of The Oaks with the planting of a pink dogwood tree.“Even though she died in February we wanted to wait until mid May to plant Kenia’s tree. We chose pink because she was a good girl.” said Osterman.The patients of The Oaks will have an opportunity to spread Kenia’s ashes around the base of the tree. The public is invited.Refreshments will be served in the community room featuring cake with Kenia’s photo on it, chocolate dog bones and paw print candies.“Flyers of the event went to every patient and their families, but for nine years we have had so many outpatients and visitors we are opening it up for everyone who ever met Kenia,” said Osterman.Kenia was adopted by The Oaks after an employee saw her online out of Indianapolis.“Kenia was used only for breeding at a puppy mill. She was in a cage all of the time,” said Osterman.A trained canine therapist, Osterman saw Kenia spend her first days at The Oaks still wanting to be in a cage.“At first we really struggled with Kenia. She was afraid to come out of her cage,” said Osterman.“She would walk the length of the cage and that was it. It took about a week to get her comfortable out of her cage.”Osterman said back then 99 percent of the patients were in wheelchairs and she had to get Kenia used to that.“Kenia was afraid to get her tail run over by a wheelchair, so we gave patients a dog brush and they brushed her constantly and they gave her dog treats. She began coming up to them. Many of the patients were deaf or couldn’t see so they would run into Kenia. You could see the guilt all over Kenia’s face. She was the best dog for our facility and she never complained. She would get her tail ran over all of the time and never once barked or showed any sign of anger,” said Osterman.The Oaks have many rehabilitation patients and they often came back just to see this special dog.“Kenia will never be forgotten at The Oaks. She was a special dog and friend and we miss her,” said Osterman.