PORTAGE | Comfort Dogs Prince and Barnabas were special guests at the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce awards banquet last month. The annual event honors individuals, organizations and businesses for their contributions to the Portage community and Northwest Indiana.
The Comfort Dog Ministries of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage received the chamber's award for improving the quality of life in the city.
Prince was recognized for his service to the students and staff of Portage High School, where he assists his handler, Tim Kunstek, in his work with at-risk teens.
Barnabas was recognized for his acts of canine compassion and his disaster response work in the Portage community and elsewhere with his primary handler, Pastor Tim Engel.
Both dogs arrived in custom-fitted tuxedos and mingled with a roomful of more than 100 community leaders.
Engel admitted he was teary-eyed during the presentation.
"Sometimes I underestimate the impact that the dogs have in our community and in the lives of the people they meet," Engel said. "I got a little choked-up when the presenter described the many ways that Prince and Barney make a difference in Portage."
As the Holy Cross congregation prepares for Prince to enter semi-retirement at the end of this school year, members are making plans and raising funds to add another Comfort Dog to the ministry.
"There will be more than enough work in Portage to keep all three dogs busy," Engel said. "They will each help our church bring Christ to our community."