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Stories From Main Street: NJ Therapy Dog And Handler Receive Special Award For Their Work

DEMAREST, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey therapy dog and his handler have received a special award for their work in responding to schools and communities in the wake of tragedies and other disasters.

Border collie Luke is one of the most popular staff members at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest.

His first job was to chase away geese, but Sister Mary Foley, a teacher and social worker, noticed something in him, WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported.

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"The most special thing about him is that he is very intuitive to what needs of people are," she said.

After some training, Sister Mary and Luke started responding to disasters like tornadoes, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Newtown school shooting massacre.

"Many of them jumped out of their parents arms and came running over to hug him and pet him," Sister Mary said. "We probably have spent maybe 175 hours in Newtown altogether."

In a traumatic time, Luke offers quiet, gentle comfort.

"We had two little 6-year-old boys who got on the ground with him and put their arms around his neck and stretched out across the length of his body and stayed there as long as they wanted to," Sister Mary said.

In June 2013, Luke was called into service at home. A car struck and killed Holy Angels assistant track coach Andrew Capizzi while he was training on his bicycle.

NJ Therapy Dog And Handler Receive Special Award

"I remember just so many tissues being used and then Sister Mary brought in Luke and he just knew right away something was wrong," said sophomore Bianca Lakoseljac.

"Even though he's a dog, he still has human traits," said sophomore Catherine Watters.

"He always looks you right in the eye so you get a sense that he really cares," said junior Mary Watters.

To honor Luke and Sister Mary, the CarePlus Foundation has given the pair a courage award for their work. It's a high honor, but for Luke, it's no big deal. He's just doing what comes naturally.

"He's a special type of therapy dog," said Sister Mary.

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