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Archie? He's the dog star

The 165-pound Newfoundland works his magic daily with abused and neglected children at Camarillo's Casa Pacifica. Only his drool is `yucky!'

July 09, 2007|Mary Engel | Times Staff Writer

"Patients have said these visits make them happier, less anxious and isolated, and less scared," said PAC director Jack Barron, whose golden retrievers, Joey and Sam, specialize in transplant and psychiatric patients, respectively.

Even doctors, nurses and other hospital staff members put in requests from time to time, not for a patient but for themselves, Barron said.

At Casa Pacifica, Archie starts each day by greeting everyone who works there. Unfolding from the back seat of Murphy's Chrysler in the morning (her husband was right about those nights and weekends), he pokes his big, square head into every office before posting himself at the door to await the children.

When he isn't napping in Murphy's office, he snores next to the director's desk. Casa Pacifica's Christmas card last year featured a photo of Archie, a red scarf around his neck, a little girl at his side. Elson's reservations melted, even after Archie ran up some expensive medical bills.

Like many large breeds, Newfies are prone to joint problems. Most recently, Archie blew out his hip playing with Tallulah, Murphy's Shih Tzu, a silken-haired dog about the size of a loaf of bread.

Donations paid for the repairs. As Archie recovered, handmade get-well cards covered Casa Pacifica's walls and doors. The kids missed him. Home alone, the dog howled.

Murphy decided that work was the best medicine, and so Archie limped back to the office, his leg in a cast. And children who had known great callousness in their lives treated the giant canine with exquisite tenderness.

mary.engel@latimes.com

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