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A Volunteer Therapy Dog Brightens the World of Gymnastics

Kelly Carney
Beacon and two female gymnasts sitting on the floor
Beacon and two female gymnasts sitting on the floor

Beacon the Golden Retriever: A Pet Partners Volunteer Therapy Dog Brightens the World of Gymnastics 

Beacon, a four-year-old Golden Retriever, has become a beloved figure in the gymnastics community, thanks in part to his participation in the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis in June 2024. Beacon has brought comfort and support to athletes, their families, and even coaches at major gymnastics competitions around the country since he became a registered Pet Partners therapy dog in 2022. 

 Called the “Goodest Boy” by event organizers—it was even on his official identification badge that he wore to gain access to the competition floor—Beacon’s work comforting and providing stress relief to the young competitors was featured on national media outlets including ESPN, People, The New York Times, and Today. 


The Power of Therapy Animals in Sports 

 Why bring a therapy animal to a gymnastics competition? The answer lies in the power of the human-animal bond. The presence of a friendly and loving dog like Beacon can help to: 

  • Reduce stress and anxiety: The high-pressure environment of competitive sports can take a toll on athletes. Beacon’s presence helps to alleviate some of that pressure, providing a furry friend to lean on for comfort. 
  • Boost morale and confidence: A few moments spent petting Beacon can be just what an athlete needs to feel more confident and positive before their performance. 
  • Foster connection and community: Beacon’s visits create opportunities for athletes, families, and coaches to connect in a meaningful way—even rivals can bond over a shared love of pets—strengthening the overall sense of community within the sport. 


Sharing Therapy Dog Comfort Across the Nation 

Golden Retriever on the floor looking relaxed surround by people petting him
Photos courtesy of Tracey Callahan Molnar

Beacon and his volunteer therapy dog handler Tracey Callahan Molnar have had a busy year. In February they flew across the country from their home in Southern California to work with the athletes at the USA Gymnastics 2024 Rhythmic Challenge & Invitational at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. Tracey set up an area with Beacon in a “Wellness Room” where the competitors, coaches and families could come to relax and interact with a number of therapy dog teams. One of the young gymnasts said, Beacon helped take my mind off of my nerves for competition. His loving personality was exactly what I needed.” 


Experienced Volunteer Therapy Dog Handler 

Tracey has been with Pet Partners as a volunteer since 2015. Beacon is her second therapy dog. She registered her first Golden Retriever, named Tulsa Luna, in 2015. With her background in education and as a rhythmic gymnastics trainer, Tracey knows how much athletes benefit from therapy dog visits, especially during stressful competitions. She and Tulsa, and now Beacon, also frequently visit with patients and staff at local hospitals.    


Inspired by Beacon?  

If you’re interested in learning more about Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Program or want to explore how you and your pet can make a difference in your community as a therapy animal team, visit our volunteer overview page and discover the joy of giving back through the human-animal bond.