It's a shame more people can't be like Eli

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comFebruary 11, 2014 


REBECCA BASS — Submitted photo

Eli is a model citizen.

He volunteers five days a week.

He helps children at St. Helena and Beaufort elementary schools learn to read. He listens patiently as they read aloud, always offering encouragement.

He volunteers in the after-school reading program at the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal. Staff members say his contact with the children improves reading skills and builds self-confidence.

Eli also visits assisted-living centers, and he even helped cheer up an elderly Medal of Honor winner recently at the Veterans' Victory House nursing home in Walterboro.

Sometimes Eli is the only one these elderly people will speak to or greet with a smile.

Last December, Eli dashed out the door to donate a pint of blood that was needed immediately to save a life. Against long odds, it worked. The physician and his staff called it a "Christmas miracle."

It's a shame more people can't be like Eli.

They couldn't be exactly like Eli, because Eli is a dog. He's a 170-pound Great Dane, white with black splotches.

But more people could be like the gentle giant, with his calm, unconditional love.

"He is a selfless dog," said his veterinarian, Dr. Mark Guilloud of Lady's Island. "It's never about him."

Guilloud said it's not rare for dogs to give blood. But when Eli's donation saved the life of Rosebud, holding his obedient stance with his head tilted up as they tapped his jugular vein, the vet thought of the often-repeated line that more of us should try to be the person our dogs think we are.

Rosebud's owners followed up with a letter to Eli. They wanted to make a donation to Eli's charity, which is the Humane Association of the Lowcountry.

Eli is one of five Great Danes owned by David and Susan Brayton of St. Helena Island. They live on a large, fenced tract that used to be a horse farm.

Three of their Great Danes are certified through the national Therapy Dogs Inc., working locally with obedience trainer Rebecca Bass. That means they are tested and proven to work well with children and the elderly. Eli has a little badge. He had already graduated from obedience school and passed the test to become an American Kennel Club Good Citizen.

Eli goes to St. Helena Elementary School two days a week, Beaufort Elementary one day a week, the YMCA one day a week and to homes for the elderly each Friday.

He mostly listens. When children finish reading to him, they get an "Eli sticker." The program is called ARF (Animals Make Reading Fun).

Eli doesn't cost the school district a nickel, but he has a definite teaching style.

"He's not judgmental because dogs can't talk," David Brayton said.

It's a shame more people can't be like Eli.

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