Thanks to PennLive.com for this sad news.
Flight 800 therapy dog dies after helping many mourn
April 08, 2007
BY JOHN BEAUGE For The Patriot-News
A therapy dog that provided comfort to mourners in Montoursville after TWA Flight 800 crashed in 1996 has died.
Star Lite was nearly 15 when she died March 30, said Patricia Dershem, owner of the black Labrador mix, certified by Therapy Dog International.
The dog was credited with helping students at Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport after a shooting and went to the one-year anniversary memorial service of the Sept. 11 plane crash in Shanksville.
“It’s strange not having her around,” said Dershem, a psychotherapist who operates Avis Behavioral Health. “It’s an enormous void.”
Dershem’s employer at the time, Susquehanna Health System in Williamsport, asked her to take Star to Montoursville High School after Flight 800 went down in the Atlantic Ocean, killing 21 Montoursville-area students and chaperones on a French Club trip.
The dog was given a retirement party in 2003 when Dershem left to go into private practice.
A therapy dog offers comfort and helps people relax, she said. She recalls a man, who had witnessed the violent death of a co-worker, going to a company debriefing session. Star picked him out, and by the end of the session, he began to open up, she said.
During group therapy, Star would go to each person, some of whom would choose to have contact with her, Dershem said.
That is what happened in 2002 in Shanksville when the dog went to uniformed United Airlines personnel at the memorial service on the first anniversary of the Flight 93 crash, she said.
Besides the high-profile events, Star was used after floods and at Penn State following an accident or death, Dershem said.
“Star started slowing down a lot over the last six months,” she said. Losing her “has been really hard,” she said.