K-9 Gina Marie – Virginia (Badge On My Collar)

Gina was an eighty-five pound furry Florence Nightingale padding along the slick hospital corridors bedecked in her bright blue hospital coat. Her large frame, as intimidating as the U.S.S. Wisconsin itself, made many skeptical that she could make a good therapy dog, but one look at her caring face and casual observation of her gentle ways changed many minds quickly. Gina Marie became the newest member of the “Buddy Brigade” at Norfolk, Virginia’s, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, and her teddy bear face and sensitive eyes would comfort hundreds of sick children who eagerly anticipated her visits.

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Virginia Tech campus police ringed the memorial and bent over to greet Gina as she passed. People milled about in silence with no one wishing to disturb the dignity of the memorial space. Students, faculty and the public stopped to linger at each slain person’s area. As Tom did the same, Gina, who remained by his side, sat down next to each name. The smell of flowers left there in tribute sweetened the breeze and added a splash of color to the somber surroundings. Small American flags marked each name, and Gina stepped softly past cuddly stuffed animals, written notes, candles, balloons, toys and a simple written statement, “The world has no words to describe our sadness.” All the time Gina knew.

Badge On My Collar by Marilyn Jeffers Walton