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From left, Mary Lyons and Upper Township Committee member Kimberly Hayes pose for a photo with Ezekiel, who assists Upper Township Rescue Squad in crisis response.  

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TUCKAHOE – Ezekiel came into the lives of Mary and Tom Lyons, of Tuckahoe, when both were in vulnerable situations: Ezekiel was a deaf boxer puppy, and Tom was going through cancer treatment. 

Seven years later, both are thriving, and Mary Lyons is Ezekiel’s gratified trainer throughAmerican Sign Language commands. 

Ezekiel, who is certified as a National Crisis Response Canine, has over 450 visitations to a variety of facilities under his collar, including residential centers, children’s hospitals, drug rehabilitation programs, churches, schools, youth conferences and sporting events. 

Both he and Lyons are proud card-carrying members of Upper Township Rescue Squad, and Ezekiel is an eagerly awaited visitor to events and groups, where he helps individuals overcome trauma and feelings of isolation through petting, cuddling and hugging sessions.  

“We gave him the name ‘Ezekiel,’ which means 'God’s strength,’ because that is what both he and Tom (Lyons) needed at that particular moment in their lives,” explains Mary Lyons, who recently retired after 43 years as a special education teacher. 

“Tom (Lyons) and I taught ourselves sign language through YouTube, so we could communicate with Ezekiel, and he now knows over 50 words, as well as phrases and even complete sentences. 

"He looks to us for our signing, and when he’s outside and it’s dark, he looks for lights that we flicker for him to come back inside the house. We are very proud of him because he gives welcome support to those who most need it,” explained Mary Lyons.  

Upper Township Committee member Kimberley Hayes shared details of the initiative with the committee and public at the governing body’s Feb. 8 meeting. Ezekiel’s visits are free to participants and their organizations, and the reward, per Lyons and Hayes, is the positive transformations he stimulates with people seeking comfort.     

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“Ezekiel aids our rescue squad in crisis response. He is dispatched to assist trauma victims. Though he has several other certifications, his presence also serves to provide emotional support to our emergency management team,” explains Hayes. “The isolation created by the Covid pandemic has had a profound effect on the youth in our community. Mary (Lyons) and Ezekiel have been kind enough to offer their services to help relieve some of these effects,” continued Hayes. 

“We’ve coordinated with the Upper Township Senior Center to begin weekly visits there once they are allowed to resume their daily operations. Our plan for the future is to have Ezekiel as a reassuring staple at our community events going forward,” said Hayes. “We are so fortunate to have Mary (Lyons) and Ezekiel as members of our rescue squad and our community,” she concluded. 

“Ezekiel has a great disposition and has been exposed to all kinds of situations and people since he was a puppy. We are very blessed he is in our lives and that we can share his wonderful talents with anyone who might benefit,” summed up Lyons.  

For more information about Ezekiel and his visits, contact Lyons, at mary.lyons@upperrescue.com.

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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