Therapy dog donated to elementary school helps community heal after loss

A donated therapy dog in Mason, Ohio, became a beacon for a community dealing with a terrible loss.


Shiner the therapy dog quickly became a beloved fixture at Mason Early Childhood Center.

In fact, according to Robyn Thomas, the school's learning experience designer and Shiner's caretaker, "The adults love him just as much as the children."

The school paired him up with students that had trouble saying goodbye to their parents in the morning, as well as with kids who lost a loved one.

"He's spending a lot of time with our counselors, especially if a child is having a difficult time," Robyn explained. "When he steps in, he usually is helping the child to calm down."

She first had the idea for a therapy dog back in 2008.

But dogs were first brought to the school after the sudden passing of Sable, a fourth-grader, in 2019.

After that, Shiner was gifted to the school by the Shine Like Sable Foundation, which was started by her parents in her honor.

Holly Gibson, Sable's mom, said, "To know that had such an impact on some of the kids, I hope that Shiner is able to play that part."

"And it's not us giving this gift," explained Scott Gibson, Sable's dad. "That's the greatest thing about it. It's the community giving this gift because they're the ones that give to the Shine Like Sable Foundation to go and do things that are bigger than ourselves."

The foundation’s mission is to continue "shining [Sable’s] light for children in need," something Shiner is perfectly suited for.

"Shiner is a perfect example of Sable," Robyn added. "Sable always had a bright, smiling face and a big smile on her face and then she had this spunkiness about her."

It’s been comforting for Sable’s parents to see the difference Shiner has made.

"When I first saw him with the kids, that just instantly made me cry because I just thought, 'This is what it's all about. This is somebody Sable would have helped, and now he's helping them,'" Holly noted.

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