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National Volunteer Month and the Healing Power Of Dogs

Updated: Tuesday, April 8 2014, 02:02 PM EDT

April is National Volunteer Month, and this week, organizations across the country are offering Americans a chance to give back.

From hospitals to hurricanes, Burton Goldstein and his 11-pound partner "Bear" have answered the call to help. Bear is a therapy dog, a 3-year-old Shih Tzu, trained to provide a priceless prescription of unwavering affection.  In some cases Bear acts as a motivator to get people walking again.

The job of a therapy dog often takes them beyond the hospital walls and into the field. They have to be in the middle of crisis situations, natural disasters--these dogs have seen it all.

Bear and Goldstein have seen their share of heartache. The cost of helping can add up though, factoring in paperwork and certification for Bear and four other therapy dogs. Goldstein and his group rely on donations to stay on their course.

It's not easy, but Bear's vest is pinned with a reminder of why they do this: it's a single starfish representing a moral story.

"Suppose somebody's walking along the beach and they saw someone throwing starfish back, one-by-one to the water," Goldstein said. "When the person walked over and said what are you doing, the person said;

'Well I’m helping the starfish.'

'But there's millions of them. How can you help all the starfish?'

He picked up one and threw back in and he said, 'I helped that one.'"

National Volunteer Month and the Healing Power Of Dogs

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