Killa the therapy dog continues his mission of helping others

Accompanied by his owner, United Supermarkets employee Donnetta Alexander, Killa the therapy dog helped deliver Christmas presents recently to A World For Children in Early.

A World For Children is a foster and foster/adopt child placing agency, and the presents Killa delivered will be taken to Aldersgate, where they will be handed out to foster children at a Dec. 1 Christmas party.

Killa — a gentle and lovable 78-pound pit bull — and Alexander drove up to A World For Children in a pickup loaded with presents. Those presents were from Killa’s friends and supporters at businesses including Car Corral and Depot Liquor. Additional presents were expected to arrive from Kohler employees.

Killa is certified as a therapy dog through the pet therapy program of an Austin-based organization called Divine Canines.

November marks the four-year anniversary of Killa and Alexander as a team. The two have made 140 visits to facilities throughout the community and have donated 540 hours of community service.

Killa, who is about 5 years old, will come, sit, shake hands and lay down on command. He likes car rides, having his head scratched and squeaky toys.

“Look at that face,” Alexander said, glancing over at the big dog’s gentle, inquisitive visage during a December 2016 visit to Brownwood Nursing and Rehab. “How could a dog with a face like that be a ‘killa?’”

Alexander said when Killa was a puppy, he’d bark at everything — a leaf, his own shadow.

“Calm down, Killa,” Alexander would playfully scold. And that became his name.

“So he kind of named himself,” Alexander said.

Alexander bought Killa for $50 when he was 6 weeks old from someone selling puppies on a street corner. “It was a $50 puppy. That was the best $50 I ever spent,” Alexander said.

Pit bulls are a misunderstood breed, Alexander said, but Killa is “an example of what you can do with the breed.”

In October 2013, Alexander and Killa — who was 19 months old at the time — began a five- weekend training program to attain certification as a therapy dog team. The training was conducted by Divine Canines of Austin.

According to its website, Divine Canines provides free therapy dog services in Central Texas to people including:

• Children struggling with literacy or dyslexia.

• Children with a history of abuse or neglect.

• Children and adults with severe cognitive, developmental, or physical disabilities.

• Children and adults living with mental illness.

• Older adults living with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other aging issues.

• Hospitalized patients in acute care and rehabilitation facilities.

• Teenagers and adults with eating disorders.

• Wounded soldiers returning from war.

Therapy dogs are also commonly utilized in hospital and home health care environments, for both children and adults, as well as in hospice care, providing affectionate companionship and a relaxing presence.

Many websites indicate research has shown animals have a positive effect in reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, motivating and inspiring exercise, and increase self-esteem.