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Cole the Deaf Dog takes his message of kindness on the road

The Daily Journal logo The Daily Journal 3/27/2020 Deborah M. Marko, Vineland Daily Journal
a white car parked in front of a house: Cole the Deaf Dog and his "dad" Chris Hannah, the Mennies Elementary School music teacher, take a road trip to connect with students during the school closure due to COVID-19. © Submitted photo Cole the Deaf Dog and his "dad" Chris Hannah, the Mennies Elementary School music teacher, take a road trip to connect with students during the school closure due to COVID-19.

Editor's note: This is part of a new series, The Helpers, shining light on those in the South Jersey community who are sharing resources and stepping up to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vineland Veterans Home resident Edward Bairunas greets Cole the Deaf Dog, who is remaining outside to comply with visitation restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. © Deborah M. Marko/The Daily Journal Vineland Veterans Home resident Edward Bairunas greets Cole the Deaf Dog, who is remaining outside to comply with visitation restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.” Gilda Radner

VINELAND - The love of Cole the Deaf Dog comes in one size fits all.

The therapy-certified pit bull is a cozy friend to cuddle at Mennies Elementary School, where his “dad” Chris Hannah is the music teacher.

Cole is companion to the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home residents, who tagged him their official mascot.

And for those in hospice care, he provides curled-at-your-side comfort.

“The whole message of the Team Cole Project is to try to spread awareness and kindness,” Hannah said, noting there's a focus that inability is not a disability. The team also share their acts of kindness to inspire others to follow suit.

When COVID-19 restrictions closed schools and nursing homes, Team Cole got creative to maintain their relationships.

They turned to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Veterans receive recorded personalized messages and students tune in to virtual visits each morning.

At bedtime, Hannah reads Cole a story and shares it with everyone on their Cole the Deaf Dog YouTube channel where it’s added to "Bedtime Stories with Cole" playlist.

Understanding students may feel anxious, Hannah reminds them they remain part of Team Cole

To offer some encouragement, the duo fired up the Cole Mobile last week for a field trip through the Mennies school sending area.

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“I mapped out the neighborhoods, hopped in the truck and went for a test drive to see how we could make it work,” Hannah said.

Then, Hannah put out a “coming soon” alert to students.

“I thought we’d get a few waves,” Hannah said.

Before they hit the road, pictures started coming in of students waiting for their drive-by visit.

“They had signs on their front doors, they had signs on their mailbox, they had signs on telephone poles,” Hannah said.

a person standing in front of a car: Sophia and Ava Melnick of Vineland wait curbside to greet Mennies Elementary School therapy dog, Cole, who visited their neighborhood during a recent road trip. © Submitted photo Sophia and Ava Melnick of Vineland wait curbside to greet Mennies Elementary School therapy dog, Cole, who visited their neighborhood during a recent road trip.

“Cole had his paws and his head out the window,” Hannah said. “It was so unbelievably touching that this dog is doing this for these children.”

Team Cole plans to regularly schedule tours while school remain closed.

“We just want to be there for the people who count on us,” Hannah said. “There are a lot of them.”

Deborah M. Marko is a senior reporter with The Daily Journal. Currently focused on breaking news and education issues, she also oversees community outreach programs that promote literacy and public safety. Got a story idea? Call 856-563-5256. Follow on Twitter: @dmarko_dj Instagram: deb.marko.dj Help support local journalism with a The Daily Journal subscription.

This article originally appeared on Vineland Daily Journal: Cole the Deaf Dog takes his message of kindness on the road

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