Bailey is still on the job welcoming 9 a.m. Mass-goers to Sacred Heart, Rock Island
By Paul Thomas Moore
ROCK ISLAND — When The Catholic Post first visited Labradoodle Bailey and her owner/trainer Sharon Cramer at Sacred Heart Church here in 2016, the therapy dog was only months into her role as greeter at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass.
Now, Bailey’s got it down to an art. Upon arrival, she takes up her post, eyes on the door, waiting for parishioners. Cramer says in part because of Bailey, the vestibule has become a place of community.
“Usually in a vestibule, you hand out a bulletin and people just pass on by,” said Cramer. Not with Bailey present. “Our vestibule is very busy . . . exchanging good wishes — it’s a joyful vestibule on Sunday morning.”
When Mass begins, Bailey knows just what to do. “She goes into her pew, we have our own pew, and Bailey never moves as much as a hair.”
Bailey is on her third pastor. Her ministry of therapy and greeting was initially blessed in 2016 by Father Anthony Co, who was followed by Father Luke Spannagel in 2019, and Father Witold Adamczyk, OFM Conv., in 2022. “She loves Father Adamczyk, I’ll tell you . . . she hugs him all up.”
The feeling is mutual. “She’s such a sweet dog,” says Father Adamczyk.
CERTIFIED THERAPY DOG
The pastor is also grateful for Bailey’s ministry as a therapy dog, for instance to children with special needs. “Some of the kids have problems communicating with people,” he says, but for Bailey “they open up.”
Bailey is a certified therapy dog, trained by Cramer, who showed and trained dogs for 20 years before her retirement due to illness as director of the physical plant at Augustana College.
“I thank God every day for creating her and sending her,” said Cramer.
Some grateful parishioners had shown their own appreciation by feeding Bailey, with fairly predictable results, as Bailey is not too good at self-policing when it comes to refusing treats.
The veterinarian prescribed an exercise regimen which included time on the treadmill and wearing a FitBark (a canine version of FitBit), and Bailey lost 10 pounds. Parishioners have responded for the most part to being asked not to give Bailey any more treats.
Bailey is also a two-time cancer survivor and is nine years old.
“She’s a large dog and they don’t live as long as a small dog,” Cramer acknowledges, so “we treasure each day . . . she’s very heathy, happy.” Almost as happy as her many friends at Sacred Heart Parish in Rock Island are to see her every Sunday at 9 a.m. Mass.