David Fuller and Goliath (Paul Rowley/Staff Photo)

David Fuller and Goliath (Paul Rowley/Staff Photo)

Therapy dog enters contested race for island’s unofficial mayor

Goliath, the gentle giant and 6-year-old Newfoundland therapy dog who has delighted islanders, seniors and Vashon Community Care residents, will run for unofficial mayor according to Jill Venturi, development manager of the Vashon Community Care Foundation.

On a fateful afternoon in Colorado, David Fuller decided to pick out a new best friend.

“I was fishing, and there was a sign that said there were Newfoundlands for sale,” he said. “When he was 8 weeks he flew into Denver to me. [He was] 18 pounds. Now he’s 170.”

Fuller realized that his new pal, which he soon aptly named for the dog’s size, was an obvious candidate for providing therapy due to Goliath’s natural tenderness, patience and affection.

“There wasn’t much training needed because the dog is just this way,” he said. “He’ll let you stand there and pet him all you want.” Fuller, who moved to the island with Goliath two years ago, added that the dog has many admirers who will go so far as to honk their horns if they see him from their cars. “He’s a very docile dog. He loves to swim. He’s strong in the water — it’s amazing how strong he is in the water.”

According to Monica Mann, life enrichment director for VCC, Goliath’s routine visits are a tremendous gift for both the residents and staff, and even the most shy among them can’t help but warm up to the dog.

“There are people out in the hallway waiting to get to him because they just love him,” she said. “He does treat different residents differently; he gets them.”

Goliath is certified by the American Kennel Club as an advanced therapy dog and is working on earning expert-level therapy credentials. With an affable howl, kind face and soft eyes, it’s no wonder that so many people have quickly taken to Goliath, though you may need to watch out for his slobber (polls have not suggested this will hurt his chances of election). The dog wears a bib around his neck with his name embroidered on it.

Mann said that Goliath provides wonderful comfort and attention to everyone who crosses his path and that she is certain he is responsible for improving the outlook of the center’s more detached residents.

“When they see Goliath and he comes to them, I don’t want to say they wake up, but they become more alert. It just suddenly starts something. It makes them happy, just to have this wonderful companion come to them — some of them don’t even always talk to their caregivers — but they just light up,” she said. “Part of our culture here at Vashon Community Care is that yes, this is a facility, but this is also people’s homes. We want it to be warm and homelike. It makes us more like a family than a facility in that way.”

Fuller and Goliath, who also stop by the Lutheran church on occasion to work alongside caregivers in the Adult Day Health program hosted there, originally began visiting VCC only one day a week. However, the dog’s appearance was such an eagerly anticipated event that they began coming on Mondays and Thursdays.

“We found that he was so popular that he didn’t have time to meet everyone,” said Mann.

According to Venturi, the number of volunteer hours logged at VCC last year were extraordinary, and Goliath’s time walking the halls, greeting patients and visiting rooms is a testament to the staff’s overall mission.

“It’s a huge part of what we’re doing here, welcoming the community and making programs like this available,” she said.

David Carleton, VCC community relations director, agrees. “A vote for Goliath means you’re voting for supporting VCC as a community and the residents living here,” he said.

Those interested in joining the race for Vashon’s unofficial mayor have until Friday, June 1, to declare.

Candidates must select an island nonprofit to fundraise for, submit a letter from the organization giving permission to fundraise and declare their run to the chamber and newspapers. Islanders vote for their favorite candidates: $1 is one vote. Winners are announced during Strawberry Festival. Visit vashonchamber.com for more information.

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