Wednesday, 11 January 2017 15:33

Owner Says Goodbye to Former Shelter Dog

Border Collie Mix Served as Therapy Dog

FRIDAY, JAN. 6, 2016 – An animal control officer said goodbye at the end of 2016 to a former Riverside County Animal Services shelter dog that served many years as a therapy pet throughout the Inland Empire.

Star, a border collie mix, died Friday (Dec. 30) after her owner decided she could not let her pet suffer further. Star had been diagnosed with cancer. Her owner, Jamie Simmons, a supervising animal control officer with the city of Fontana, took Star to one of her favorite places on Friday – the beach – then later that day held her beloved pet as Star was humanely euthanized. Star was 16 years old.

“It was time,” a tearful Simmons said. “I cannot believe she’s gone. But she had a good life. She was spoiled.”

Star earned some spoiling. After all, she worked many years as an official therapy pet for children and victims of abuse. Simmons took Star to visit almost 100 foster and group homes. Star sat next to victims as a comfort companion as detectives interviewed them. And Star made trips to courthouses to be by the side of those about to testify about their abuse.

She made one 12-year-old victim smile, Simmons recalled. “And I saw a spark in the girl’s eyes and Star seemed to bring her out of her sadness. People were drawn to her. I noticed it early on. That’s why I got her officially certified as a therapy dog. People were drawn to her, especially those who were suffering or had been tormented in some way.”

One of Star’s specialty moves was her lean toward those who pet her. “She was definitely a big leaner,” Simmons said.

Simmons first came across Star during her days as an animal control officer with Riverside County. The then-4-month-old pup was inside the county’s former shelter location on Wilderness Avenue in Riverside.

“She had been at the shelter for three weeks,” Simmons said. “She was so skinny. She looked depressed. She looked like she might keel over at any moment.”

Simmons went on to work as a state humane officer, based in San Bernardino and then, in mid-2009, started with the city of Fontana. Everywhere she went, her dog was the superstar by her side. Many of the Fontana Police officers knew of Star’s hero status for those victimized by abusers and several officers sent Simmons messages with their condolences.

“I think dogs are just such comforting souls,” Simmons said. “Especially for those who are hurt and suffering. When an animal comes into your life, it’s such a gift. A dog can especially help comfort, provide confidence and self-worth. So many victims go through decades of pain. If an animal can help relieve some of that pain, it’s a step forward.”

Simmons herself was touched early on by an animal during a childhood that would find her living in 13 different foster homes in the Inland region. A quarter horse named Bullet at a foster home in Rancho Cucamonga became one of her jobs. “I could not wait to get up to care for that horse,” Simmons said. “I just loved every minute with that horse.” 

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