Meet Beacon, a Golden Retriever Therapy Dog and Team U.S.A. Gymnastics' 'Goodest Boy'

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Beacon is a Golden Retriever working as a therapy dog with a really cool job — working with the U.S.A. Gymnastics team. And he's such a good boy!

On June 28, 2024, The New York Times introduced us to Beacon and shared his unique role with U.S.A Gymnastics and the important work he's doing. Take a look!

Beacon is a 4-year-old Golden Retriever who works as a therapy dog with the U.S.A. Gymnastics team.

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According to his profile in The New York Times, Beacon attends major events with the U.S.A. team, including qualifying trials and competitions leading up to the Paris Olympics next month.

Beacon joined the team last year along with his human, Tracey Callahan Molnar and he has played an important role since the U.S.A. Gymnastics has committed to growing and "promote a culture that protects the well-being of its athletes."

Beacon's job, which comes with the title "Goodest Boy," is to help coaches and athletes during the stressful times of competition. Recently, he joined the women's national team ahead of their first night of competition at the Olympic trials.

He sits near stressed team members and gets belly rubs to calm and comfort them. He also gives gentle face kisses to those who need them.

"He's tired now," Molnar said, according to ESPN. "I think we did important work. It was a rough night for some of the gymnasts, and I think Beacon helped celebrate the good stuff and be there and give support for the challenges."

After the most recent event, Beacon spent about 40 minutes on the arena floor with the coaches and gymnasts. In total, he was available in some capacity for 15 hours during the day.

"He picks up on the stress and will pull to that person immediately," Molnar said. "They absorb the stress of the people they're relieving the stress off of. So even though he might be lying still for two hours, he's wiped out afterward."

But Beacon loves his job, and it's clearly a calling for him since he's so good at helping relieve stress in even the most stressful situations. “Even if he’s tired, even if he has been working for 12 hours, the second he hears his name, he’s like, ‘I’m up and ready and I want to say hi. Who wants to be close to me?’” Molnar shared.

Last year, Beacon was the main therapy dog working with the team, but this year, another pup has been enlisted to help as well. Plus, for some events, more trained therapy dogs are called on to help keep the athletes and coaches as stress-free as possible.

What Does a Therapy Dog Do?

According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, therapy dogs, sometimes called emotional support dogs, help comfort and affectionate people who aren't their family. The settings where they work vary widely. Therapy dogs are used in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, competitions, disaster areas, and more.

An important distinction for therapy dogs is they're not service dogs, which the American Kennel Club notes.

"Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability," the organization explains. "Therapy dogs do not have the same special access as service dogs."