- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - When Alvin the dog rings bells, shoppers give.

The unique opportunity to watch a trained dog ring bells is an extra incentive for shoppers of all ages to open wallets and purses for the local Salvation Army.

Alvin and his human partners, Julia and Steve Roberts, often attract generous donors to their kettle as they volunteer. They rang bells for two hours last week at Kroger.

They will again volunteer from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday outside Walmart.

Many shoppers are curious about the very large but friendly and gentle animal.

Alvin is a 5-year-old trained therapy dog. He’s a Leonberger, a breed of working dogs from Germany that range from 150 to 180 pounds. They are used for water rescue, search and rescue and carting.

It took just a few minutes for the Roberts family to train Alvin to ring the bells on the stand they made for him.

To keep ringing bells throughout a two-hour shift, Alvin welcomes a little prompting with treats that Julia brings. Some of his favorites are venison, cheese, cookies and turkey.

“People can’t resist,” Julia says. “That’s the plan.” This is Alvin’s fourth year to ring bells for Salvation Army and he’s still a popular attraction.

For example, in 2013, the Roberts’s rang bells for a total of 15 hours during the holiday season, raising more than $100 per hour.

Alvin is calm even when surrounded by groups of shoppers, but he has plenty of practice in a variety of settings. The family takes Alvin to local hospitals and rehabilitation centers, bringing joy to patients and staff. He also helps in schools with programs ranging from reading to pet care and safety and anti-bullying.

Some of Alvin’s Salvation Army donors are former patients or their families who remember the big fluffy dog, and Julia and Steve appreciate hearing stories about how Alvin cheered them.

Julia said that last year, a woman stopped and put several bills in the kettle for herself and her mother each time Alvin rang bells. Alvin had visited her mother while she was hospitalized.

“She said it made her and her mother feel so much better that she wanted to repay us,” Roberts said. “She always came up to put money in and hug Alvin, then she would drive by with her mother in the car as they would stop for her mother to pet him and Alvin would lay his head on her lap.”

Alvin is so popular he even has his own page on Facebook called Alvin’s Therapy Fan Club.

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Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, https://pinews.co/1kPPFpp

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Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com

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