Praise rings in for Mitch the dog

EASTERN JACKSON COUNTY, MO -- Mitch has been getting a lot of media attention since he volunteered for the Salvation Army in December.

Mitch, a 4-year-old golden retriever, was recognized Tuesday morning by Capt. Richard Trimmell of the Salvation Army for the work he did bell ringing. Trimmell said he has never received so many calls over a volunteer.

''I got calls from television stations, headquarters and newspapers saying they wanted more information about Mitch,'' Trimmell said. ''I guess it is just one of those funny stories people want to pick up and read.''

Rhonda Sullivan, member of Blue Springs Rotary AM and Blue Springs resident, said she was surprised about how much attention Mitch got right after he started bell ringing. She said he went out a third time because the Salvation Army requested he ring his special adapted bell again.

''As long as he (Mitch) is around people, he is perfectly content,'' Sullivan said. ''This proved to be a good idea and worked out well for Mitch and the Salvation Army.''

Sullivan said it took her almost two months to teach Mitch how to ring the bell, which is attached to a candy cane striped pole. She said the idea cam to her last summer when Mitch was in obedience class. After he went to a trick class, she said she knew the idea would be possible.

''It definitely turned out to be a great experience,'' Sullivan said. ''We will be back next Christmas and hopefully have a new variation on the trick.''

Trimmell said with the harsh, cold end to 2000, it was hard to raise funds. He said although the organization raised $183,000 in Eastern Jackson County, $33,000 above the $150,000 goal, it was hard to get volunteers out in the cold and make people aware that bell ringing was still taking place.

''Once people were aware of the trouble we were having, they started sending money in and making donations,'' Trimmell said. ''Mitch and Rhonda were just a nice thing to happen in the middle of a tough season. It was a winter to beat them all, and Rhonda and Mitch were a bright spot.''

Billie Jo Morrison, member of the Blue Springs Rotary AM, said she thought it was fantastic that Mitch and his owner received so much attention for volunteering. She said people do not realize how much work it takes to train a dog, and receiving the recognition is well deserved.

''Mitch is certainly a special dog and it is great that he got recognized for his special talent,'' Morrison said. ''We are very excited about Mitch's bell ringing and hope he and Rhonda continue to do this great volunteer work.''

Sullivan said since all the attention has died down, Mitch has been getting back to his regular routine. She said he still does volunteer work every Friday by visiting the elderly residents at St. Mary's Manor and also baby-sits a new kitten that has entered the household.

''The kitten is only here for a little while, but he thinks it is his job to watch her,'' Sullivan said. ''Everybody enjoys his visits and likes his friendly personality. This is something we will do for many years to come.''