Newtown therapy dog wins first nationwide Books & Barks Contest

Pets Best Insurance Services, LLC, a leading U.S. pet insurance agency based in Boise, Idaho, announced today a Newtown therapy dog has been selected as the winner of the agency’s first Books & Barks contest. Kona, a therapy dog who regularly visits the students of Reed Intermediate School, won the nationwide contest, which was created to recognize and bring awareness to the inspirational work of therapy dogs in classrooms and libraries across the nation.

In its first year, the Books & Barks contest brought in 9,004 votes cast by the community members of eight finalists from across the U.S. The public was able to vote by visiting the Pets Best website, and the company’s Facebook page. As part of the contest, Pets Best awarded $1,000 to Reed Intermediate School and $500 to a pet therapy organization selected by Kona’s owner and handler.

 “Pets Best created the Books & Barks contest in an effort to share the stories of therapy dogs that provide ongoing support and love for children in educational settings,” said Dr. Jack Stephens, founder of Pets Best. “Kona’s efforts with Newtown students encompass the meaningful impact that therapy dogs have on children every day. We look forward to hearing more stories about helpful therapy dogs as this contest continues for years to come.”

Sandy Cornell, Kona’s owner and handler, said the 3-year-old Boston terrier has been visiting Reed Intermediate School for more than a year. In 2012, Kona became a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International. Kona received a total of 3,211 online votes during the Books & Barks contest.

“Strangers stop me now and say, ‘I voted for Kona. Thank you for doing what the two of you do.’ It is truly a fantastic feeling,” Cornell said. “Kona’s ability to sense what is needed and who needs it most is beyond my understanding. She is unflappable. While I might be fighting back tears, she is doing what she does best, comforting a child.”

Pets Best awarded Cornell with a $500 donation to any animal-related nonprofit of her choice. Cornell selected Charlotte’s Litter, a program promoting the use of therapy dogs, as the recipient of the donation. Charlotte’s Litter was developed by the parents of Charlotte Bacon, a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was tragically killed on Dec. 14, 2012. The program’s goal is to advocate for animal-assisted activities while creating programs that improve access to therapy dogs.

Kona was nominated by Karen King, a fifth-grade teacher at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since 2013, therapy dogs have made weekly visits to the school, some coming from as far away as Boston and parts of New York. Following the successful nomination from Kim, Pets Best awarded her school with $1,000, which will be used to assist therapy dog handlers who frequently visit the school with their dogs.

“Reed Intermediate School plans to divide the $1,000 prize winnings into many different gift cards for the therapy dog handlers who visit the school weekly, at their expense,” King said. “This is our small way of giving back for all that they have given us.”

Pets Best debuted the Books & Barks contest in the summer of 2014, after seeing the positive effects of incorporating therapy dogs into classroom and library programs. The contest brought in more than 150 heartfelt, inspirational entries from all corners of the country. Pets Best plans to host the Books & Barks contest annually, with the next contest scheduled for spring 2015. Follow Pets Best on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed about important contest dates.

For more information about the Books & Barks contest, visit the Pets Best blog.


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