Our next new member of the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame is Maggie, a 7 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, belonging to Howard and Carol Ball. Maggie lives in Richmond and was nominated by her VVMA member veterinarian Virginia Clarke.
Maggie came to the Ball’s home as a rescue dog five years ago. For most of that time, she has been an active member of (delete the)Therapy Dogs of Vermont. Maggie spends her days at Fletcher Allen Hospital where she regularly visits the surgical waiting room, the Intensive Care waiting room, the Pediatric Department and the Psychiatric Department. Wearing her red Therapy Dog bandanna and a Chessie smile on her face, Maggie wags her tail as she cuddles with patients that need support, comforts patients that are in pain, befriends patients that miss their pets, and walks with patients that need exercise.
Maggie seems to help most in the pediatric ward where she helps normalize the hospital setting for the children who are sick, afraid, and away from home,. She plays ball, does tricks, lies quietly or gives kisses on command. One young boy had to undergo kidney dialysis several times a week. On his gloomiest days, Maggie was frequently the only visitor who could coax a smile onto his face. Maggie, who also answers to the name “Sweetheart”, has been described by a Pediatric Physician as the “lab with the bad perm, who was put on the earth to be a loving, caring and compassionate companion to all those in need”.
And what does Maggie do when she is not visiting the hospital? Does she sleep the day away like other dogs? No indeed! Maggie is also a Reading Buddy Dog in the reading to Fido Program. Every Friday, Maggie visits the Barnes Elementary School in Burlington, where she heads to the Learning Center, ready to listen to a story. Many of the students at the school are recent immigrants to the United States from places such as Viet Nam, the Congo, Bosnia, Russia, and Albania. All need help with learning English and improving reading skills. One boy said he didn’t read out loud very well. He was told that Maggie didn’t care. So the child stretched out on the floor next to Maggie and started whispering the story into her ear. She listened with her nose almost in his book, encouraging every word, until his voice grew loud and strong.
Many of the Barnes Elementary students wrote letters in support of Maggie’s nomination into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame. They stated that she was a very good listener, had a big heart and was the best dog ever. Some were very impressed with Maggie’s intelligence. This letter is from Brittany, “Dear Maggie, I like to read to you. I hope you win the award. You are the sweetest dog. I remember when you helped me turn the page on my book because the page was stuck. You are very cute and beautiful. Love, Brittany”
Maggie has touched many hearts and comforted many souls. She has helped some children to learn and others to heal. The VVMA is pleased to induct Maggie into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame in the Professional category.