Talk about barking up the right tree! Late last year, as the St. Louis Blues sank into last place in the National Hockey League, the team decided to help raise Barclay, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy being trained to be part of the Duo Dogs Assistance Dogs Program.
Then on June 12, 2019, less than six months after Barclay’s arrival, the hockey team won its first Stanley Cup. Barclay, named after former Blues player and coach, Barclay Plager, is now considered one of the team's good luck charms.
This miraculous dog, who was eight weeks old when taken in by the Blues, is owned by Duo, a nonprofit that trains service and therapy dogs. Not only does Duo receive community grant support from The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, but Barclay is the offspring of Honey, a dog owned by Pat and Aja Stokes, who initiated the Foundation’s campaign for Hospice which resulted in Evelyn’s House. Pat is a former chair of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital board of directors and currently an emeritus member of the board.
From the moment he was born, Barclay has been with humans for 24 hours a day to acclimate him to all social situations. Certainly being raised by a hockey team presented plenty of those. Indeed, videos of his playful antics, particularly those on the ice, have turned him in to an Internet superstar and his Instagram feed, @stlbluespup has more than 76,000 followers. He also won the award for NHL’s Best Team Dog where hockey fans voted from around the country.
Randy Girsch and Hannah Arnold, the Blues’ vice president and director of community development respectively, are Barclay’s primary and secondary handlers. Either of them will take him home with them at night and on the weekend. After he’s with the team for a total of about 18 months, he’ll be returned to Duo for advanced training which will last about six months, and then he will be evaluated on how he will fit into the Assistance Dog Program. Another Duo Program, Touch Therapy, has owners and their dogs volunteer at several BJC HealthCare entities, including Evelyn’s House. The dogs provide support and relieve stress and anxiety for people undergoing extensive treatments or who just received a devastating diagnosis.