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Local therapy dog helps in Boston

Barclay Downs resident Jennifer Spears Bashford, 34, was in Boston’s Copley Square visiting friends the week before the Patriot’s Day bombings.

Bashford owns Peaches, a pit bull and a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International. Recently, Bashford and Peaches spent several days providing comfort in Boston.

“I love Boston and I wanted to give back in whatever way we could. When we got the email about volunteers needed, it was clear that we could do something to help. ” Bashford said.

This was Peaches’ first trip on a plane, her inaugural hotel stay and her first taxi ride.

Peaches spent time with Boston police officers, visited the memorial at the Boston Marathon finish line and received many belly rubs from area school children.

Peaches, who was once scheduled to be euthanized has a history of abuse and has survived cancer.

“I wanted Peaches to be well-trained so that people would notice her for the sweet dog she is, not as a ‘scary, cropped-ear pit bull’” said Bashford. “She did so well in her AKC Canine Good Citizen certification that we decided to try for her therapy certification which she passed it on her first try. Peaches’ gentle nature makes her perfect for therapy work.”

This trip to Boston is the farthest she and Bashford have traveled together. She has since been invited to visit West Texas, a trip they are planning.

“The most rewarding part of traveling to Boston was the positive reaction we got from everyone,” said Bashford. “People on the street stopped to pet Peaches and tell me stories about where they were during the bombings or the lockdown. We met a policewoman who just started to cry when she heard we were from North Carolina. She was so grateful for all of the support the city has received. That was also the hardest part – seeing the first responders so affected by the attacks.”

Peaches and Bashford first met while she was working at a local shelter. Peaches was transported to Charlotte where Bashford has made it her goal to have her become an ambassador for pit bulls and later a therapy dog.

“After adopting Peaches, I began working with American Pit Bull Foundation because of my passion for the breed,” she said. “Last year she won the voting contest to be the 2012 APBF Mascot – we love seeing people wearing T-shirts with her face on them and she loves being recognized in public. She’s come quite a long way from an animal abuse case.”

Peaches spends most days with Bashford accompanying her to her job at a local nursing home. Bashford lives with her husband, David, three dogs, two cats and assorted foster animals.

Bashford says she can’t imagine her life without Peaches and in Boston Peaches was able to provide comfort to many whose lives were dramatically and suddenly changed.

Elisabeth Podair is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Elisabeth? Email her at epodair@gmail.com.
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