Nikie is a grief counselor. For the past 8 months Nikie has been providing support to the workers at "Ground Zero" who have been participating in the clean up efforts of the World Trade Center attacks. Nikie roamed the work area, providing comfort to firefighters, police, volunteers, family of victims, and demolition workers. Nikie has a unique ability to bring forth emotions that are held back from most, and to listen and comfort non-judgementally. Nikie is the only counselor of his type certified to work at the World Trade Center site. He received special training a few years ago that enabled him to remain calm in the face of such overwhelming emotion, and to withstand the cold temperatures and constant banging and clanging of the attack site. When the stress and pain got too much for Nikie, he took long baths, played with a soccer ball in the park and went on drives in his best friend's jeep with his head hanging out of the window. To keep his strength up, Nikie ate 12 cups of Kibble before each 13 hour day.
Nikie is a 120 pound Golden Retriever. Nikie is a K-9 Disaster Relief therapy dog. For the past four years Nikie has flown with his handler, Frank Shane, to disaster sites, offering support and comfort to whomever needs it. Frank Shane is the founder and executive director of the K-9 Disaster Relief Organization, a non-profit agency that assists various governments, police and fire departments, and volunteer groups during and after disasters.
Prior to the September 11, 2001 attack, Nikie's main work was in hospitals and trauma centers, where he would help victims and families deal with the grief surrounding serious illness and injuries. When Flight 587 crashed in November, 2001 Nikie and Shane worked for two weeks with a Red Cross special team, trying to provide support for the families of the victims. Shane talks about how Nikie sought out a young mother who had lost her husband and two children in the crash:
"Out of hundreds of victim families in this large center, Nikie sought out that women and stayed with her all morning - - she went down on the floor and laid next to him crying softly at first, than harder until she couldn’t stop. He allowed her to shed tears on his soft golden fur until it was time for the Red Cross to provide the counseling she needed. I was able to leave her with Nikie alone because he trusted me and knew that I would never put him in harms way."
When a memorial prayer service was held later at the site of the crash, the young mother found Nikie among the thousands of people gathered there, and hugged him to say goodbye. She gave Shane a bracelet from one of her children, which he still wears today.
Nikie is a celebrity now. He's been featured on CNN and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered". Nikie has been featured on Discovery Channel's "Animal Planet" and will have a National Geographic article written about him soon. The Washington Post, Time Magazine and the Associated Press have documented his work at Ground Zero. New York Governor George Pataki awarded Nikie a Certificate of Recognition, stating:
“Nikie has worked with and positively assisted New York City firefighters, police officers, World Trade Center employees, and victims’ families and children affected by the tragic events of September 11th and November 12th, truly proving to be a man’s best friend.”
Good Boy Nikie....Good Boy.