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Owner of Nala, St. Paul's elevator-riding teacup poodle, dies

While Doug Dawson worked his nursing home job, Nala rode the elevator visiting residents
Credit: Devin Krinke, KARE

ST PAUL, Minn. — The owner of the elevator-riding, nursing home teacup poodle that charmed millions of online viewers has died.

Doug Dawson passed away Thursday morning, having never regained consciousness after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier.  He was 63.

Dawson and his dog Nala were featured in a 2015 edition of Boyd Huppert’s Land of 10,000 Stories that has been viewed more than seven million times online.

While Dawson worked as a trained medications assistant at Lyngblomsten Care Center in St. Paul, Nala rode the elevator between floors visiting residents.

"If you put her down, she'll pick out the person with Alzheimer's," Dawson said in the 2015 story. “She has a way of picking the sick."

Dawson’s wife, Javon Allen, said the hospital allowed Nala in for a visit the day Doug's life support was disconnected.

“They were a team,” Allen said. “Doug was so proud of her.”

In a follow-up interview earlier this year, Dawson expressed amazement at the reach of the 2015 story.

“We got letters from Holland, Greece, Germany. They send toys all the time. I haven't bought anything for her in years. It's just amazing what this little dog has done,” Dawson said.

Allen said her husband also had a passion for helping the sick and elderly, including volunteering to work with COVID-19 patients in the months before he died.

“I decided to donate his organs in honor of his legacy of caring for others,” Allen said.

Now, Nala is helping Allen through her grief. “She’s been my rock through this whole thing,” Dawson’s wife said.


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