A time for healing with help from a furry friend and a generous heart

Mark Derry

When I opened this press release in between sips on my Mexican Dark coffee from First Street, it gave me pause for a few reasons: “Discovery News – A team of specially trained dogs just journeyed 800 miles to help grieving children and adults at funerals and other gatherings this week in Newtown, Conn.

The dogs all come from the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry at Lutheran Church Charities, based near Chicago.

“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” Tim Hetzner, president of the organization, told the Chicago Tribune. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”

People and kids often pet the dogs while they talk or pray with the handlers. Sometimes those who are grieving prefer just to spend quiet time with the dogs, receiving comfort from their assuring presence. The dogs are deployed during national disasters. But they also handle daily matters where their soothing help is needed, such as at hospitals and nursing homes. Each dog carries a business card listing its name, Facebook page, Twitter account and e-mail address so that those who connect can stay in touch.”

So I thought of the marvelous efforts of Gilroyan Mary Cortani, a finalist in the CNN Hero of the Year competition. She trains dogs as companions to help returning military personnel who are having a tough time re-adjusting to “normal” life. And I thought about my dog, Rocco, who every night when I lay my head down comes over and puts his muzzle on the bed to say goodnight and get a final scratch behind the ears. And I thought how much I hoped those K-9 Comfort Dogs would bring solace to those hurt deeply – enough to allow them to become better, not bitter.

Don Christopher’s not bitter about the Gilroy School Board’s decision to decline to match his $1 million gift offer in order to build a suitable sports complex at Christopher High School. Instead, he sat down with the parent boosters at CHS, generously removed the attached strings and will make a $1.1 million gift to get the project going. That, says parent Larry Sanford, will allow for a synthetic track and a field for multiple sports use including football. No stadium lights, though, so Saturday afternoon games may be the norm. “Christmas has come early for Christopher High, the students and the community,” said Sanford. That’s the generosity that has become a hallmark for our city’s gracious garlic-business mogul. So, when you buy that delicious Christopher Ranch roasted garlic at Nob Hill, feel good about it.

Don’t feel good about what’s going on with CalTrain. Looks like the tracks are going to be electrified from San Francisco to San Jose only, and, when that’s done, the commuter train service that has extended to Gilroy since 1992 will likely be finished. Seems like just yesterday that I stood with hundreds of Gilroyans at the train station enjoying the “It’s All Coming Together” ceremony to celebrate CalTrain’s southern extension to serve Gilroy. I’ve always thought South County has never received a fair train shake in that the trains don’t run on weekends and the weekday schedules are so limited. That combo makes it very restrictive to consider taking the train as an alternative. To take the train to, a Giants game, for example,  you really have to drive to San Jose first. Maybe now that Don Gage is mayor, he can get together with Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate and try to re-start the conversation about electrifying the tracks down to Gilroy. It would surely make a lot of sense for the future.

For Gilroy’s future, a renewed focus on downtown from the new City Council would be most welcome. Revitalization has to happen one building at a time and, at a certain point, enough momentum will be gained and the proverbial tipping point will have been reached. Our downtown is funky. That’s a good thing. Our downtown has low rents. Good thing. Our downtown has a snappy streetscape, and bronze statues and historic, beautiful Old City Hall … but there are so many empty buildings … so, there’s a good retreat topic for the City Council: If downtown’s a priority – and it should be – solicit ideas from the Downtown Business Association, the Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber and the city staff and select five ideas that can be turned into concrete plans to help downtown reach that tipping point. Downtown represents the heart and soul of our community and until we focus on making it a vibrant place that is accessible, interesting and entertaining, our community will suffer – and residents will continue to drive to Morgan Hill. C’mon Gilroy, we can do this.

Thanks to all those who shared a kind word on our daughter, Cayla’s, graduation from nursing school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Her pinning ceremony with the 35 or so nursing graduates was personal and heartwarming and the full graduation gave us a chance to proudly reflect on her accomplishments.

Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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