Service dogs honored with new stamps

Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 9:36 a.m. CDT; updated 8:35 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 31, 2012

CARL JUNCTION — The Carl Junction post office has a reputation for promoting the release of special postage stamps in unique ways.

Wednesday was no different.

An unveiling ceremony included a Doberman named Bullett, a bloodhound named Copper and a Labrador named Huey who helped pull the cover off four new stamps called, appropriately, "Dogs at Work."

The set of stamps, painted by New York artist John Thompson, celebrates the partnership of dogs and people by depicting four typical jobs of working canines: guide dogs, therapy dogs, tracking dogs and search dogs.

Huey belongs to Carl Junction resident Daryl Felkins, who has multiple sclerosis and was once denied access with Huey to several area businesses.

Since then, Felkins has worked to educate the public about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows service dogs to enter buildings. Huey now delivers mail to offices, visits schools, and serves as a link, Felkins said, between members of the disabled community and everyone else with whom they come in contact.

"This service dog saved my life," she said of Huey's companionship and service. "Now children approach me, pet him, want to tell stories of their own pets. They're not scared of me anymore."

Wagging her tail in anticipation of the stamp unveiling was Lily, a 4-year-old Weimaraner from Joplin who works as a search and rescue dog.

"The most notable thing she's done is when an elderly lady wandered away from her home in Newton County and no one could find her," recalled Tara Prosser, who is with Paws K-9 Search and Rescue. "We got called out at 11 p.m. to search for her, and in 45 minutes Lily had her located. The lady would not have lasted until morning; she was in the middle of the woods."

Lily works only for praise, so she was rewarded by Prosser with a few minutes of romping and playing.

"Meanwhile I'm bawling," said Prosser, who noted that the expense of training and keeping such a dog — about $15,000 over its lifetime — is "so worth it."

"We don't get acknowledged very much, which is fine, because that's not why we do it, but a nationwide show of support is great in my eyes," she said. "We'll buy some stamps, but they won't be used. I'll save them, maybe frame them."

Another Lilly was also in attendance — a 10-year-old Labrador owned by Lori Dempsey, who is legally blind.

"She helps me navigate up and down curbs," Dempsey said after the unveiling. "I can't imagine life without her."

Havoc, a German shepherd, was in attendance with his owner, Scott Yates, of Joplin.

"He helped after the Joplin tornado; that was his first job," Yates said. Although Havoc found only those who had perished in the storm, Yates said that, too, was an important job.

"Putting these dogs on stamps is awesome," Yates said. "People usually only think of these dogs when they're needed, but then they're out of mind."

Several dogs from the Jasper County Sheriff's Department were in attendance with their handlers. They will undergo training in the next few days for tracking explosives and drugs.

And then there was Huey.

"During our meet-and-greet at church, he goes up and down the aisles; he goes to civic groups," said Mayor Mike Moss. "It's great that these dogs can be recognized. They provide a valuable service."

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