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Dogs, the Christmas spirit and Tracy of Batavia, Ohio – an “Ordinary Hero”

Look out, St. Francis: we’ve got a new contender for the “patron saint of animals!”

For a very special holiday episode of Dog Talk I interviewed Tracy, a listener from Batavia, Ohio. Her story exemplifies the very best of the holiday spirit and good cheer.

For years, Tracy has been sending me her annual online Christmas card, featuring her huge, adorable, rag-tag pack of rescued dogs (whom she refers to as her “scratch and dents!”). This video of how she managed to line them all up for the Christmas photograph this year will make your day.

Tracy has helped hundreds of rescued pooches, taking many into her home and training some for therapy work. At one point, she had 22 shelter dogs, some retired breeders rescued from mills.

“People think I’m crazy,” says Tracy. “But when they see how much love, training and attention I give to all my dogs, they realize it’s a good kind of crazy.”

Her pack is now 12 strong, with six of them serving as certified therapy dogs through her affiliation with Pet Partners, a national organization for therapy animals and their handlers and she volunteers with Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati. She takes one or two dogs with her to work — which is cleaning fish tanks in offices, nursing homes and in homes in the Cincinnati area.

I was devastated to find out that this holiday Tracy is undergoing treatment for cancer, first chemo, then radiation, followed by surgery, but she hasn’t lost her enthusiasm and optimism. One of her therapy dogs, Squish (a deaf French bulldog) accompanies her to the appointments and treatments.

Squish on Tracy’s bed in the post-op recovery area after she had a port surgically implanted

Squish on Tracy’s bed in the post-op recovery area after she had a port surgically implanted

Here’s Squish with Tracy a day later in the chemo chair. You can see just how powerful a bond they share. Facing such great challenges, Tracy shows exemplary courage and tenacity. “I have the same outlook I’ve always had,” she says. “I take one day at a time, and live in the moment. I think I have a dog brain!”

Tracy Kinney in chemo chair

My heart goes out to Tracy and her pack. I’m glad they have each other, along with her devoted husband and a few friends ready to pitch in if needed. She’s often in my thoughts, as I wish her a full and fast recovery so she can go back to having her dogs help others in need as they are now doing for her.

—Tracie Hotchner
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