They say that a dog is a man’s best friend.

And in the case of one very special canine, that sentiment was particularly true. Not only was Cindy a friend to men and women, she was an extra special friend to literally thousands of children she came in contact with over the last nine years while she accompanied her owner and school counselor, Sandy Hanebutt, to work every day.

Cindy, you see, was no ordinary pet. She was an exceptionally gentle and loving animal that became an important part of Hanebutt’s job.

The 14-year-old Labrador even had her own doggy bed in Hanebutt’s office, where she would spend her days waiting for students to come by and give her a hug.

But late last week, Cindy received her final hug from an owner faced with an excruciating decision. Hanebutt, who adopted Cindy from the pound nine years ago, made the heart wrenching decision to put her beloved pet to sleep. It was a decision she made last Friday after Cindy’s condition worsened. No longer able to walk and in constant pain, Hanebutt said she wanted Cindy to be at peace.

“I knew last Friday that things had gotten bad and that’s when I made the decision,” she said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I wanted her to die with dignity.”

Still wrought with emotion following Cindy’s passing, Hanebutt shared some of her favorite memories on Wednesday. Hanebutt said Cindy’s greatest gift was that she didn’t discriminate. She loved all the children.

“Many of the students who came to my office would just lay on the floor and love on Cindy,” she said. “It was very comforting - they would just pet her while we talked.”

Hanebutt said Cindy’s last big job was to comfort grieving students at the junior high who lost their beloved principal, Paul Henderson, earlier this year.

“I brought her to the junior high for several days after Mr. Henderson died,” she said. “Many of the students remembered her from when they were at Chamberlin and Hook and they would just walk by and give her a hug. Seeing her gave them comfort.”

While Cindy will no longer offer students a warm snuggle or friendly kiss, her memory and contribution she made in the lives of countless children for nearly a decade will be felt by those who had the pleasure of knowing the extraordinary animal for years to come.

Hook teacher Lisa West said Cindy was special because she showed “unconditional love to our students.”

“We also owe thanks to the thousands of kids who loved her back,” West said. “They meant as much to Cindy as she meant to them.”