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Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone, not forgotten

The dog days are over. On October 3, The Dog Jurgens was returned to TSA at Lackland Air Force base after ten months as a Trinity foster puppy. The previous evening we held a roast and reception to say farewell. Jurgens was housed in the office of Katharine Martin, Campus Publications Coordinator, during the week and at my home with my family on nights and weekends. But she really lived on the whole campus. Students played with her during her office hours, saw her at campus events, and most importantly, signed up to walk her. She had boundless energy, so the walking was very important. She also has a sense of humor, as evidenced by her "routine" when Katharine had to put her in her crate. This was the only time a group, rather than a single family, served as a foster family.

TSA bomb-sniffing dogs are named for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Our puppy was named for Paul Jurgens. Paul's sister and brother-in-law, Alice and John Sheldon came to campus from Maryland on 9/11 this year to meet Jurgens, who they had been following on Facebook. It was a tremendous visit for all of us.

This fostering program was intended to be fun and give students a puppy to play with as a stress reliever. It turned out to be much larger than that. The training/behavioral regimen was different than with most puppies. We had to try to evoke certain qualities from Jurgens, such as toy drive, that would be used later on in her training. We benefited greatly by learning of Paul and meeting some of his family. And we were able to more appropriately reflect on 9/11 than since we dedicated a memorial on campus in 2003.

Mostly, we learned about a heroic man, a loyal and devoted family, and the personal nature of a national tragedy -- and the pain it continues to inflict. And we learned about a puppy who will also serve in protecting others with drive, energy, and relentlessness. To commemorate this experience, an etching from the World Trade Center Memorial commemorating Paul Jurgens, hangs in my office. It was done by staffer Raphael Moffett when he visited New York last summer. A photo collage and a letter from Alice Sheldon complete the grouping.

This will be placed in a more prominent location, probably in the University Center, next year. It includes a QR code to the Web page so future visitors can learn more about the man, the dog, and the program. All are too special to be forgotten. Our puppy will now spend up to a year in intensive training. If she is successful she will be assigned to an airport to assume bomb-sniffing duties. It is not uncommon for foster families to attend graduation. I hope they will be ready for Trinity University. We look forward to seeing her again. And remembering.

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