The 2004 Animal of the Year is Tigger, a 3 1⁄2 year old mixed breed dog who started his life as a fat little yellow pup in a cardboard box on a porch in Huntington. Tigger is owned by Marie Quinton. Over the years, Tigger has been a very special companion to Marie as well as a companion and therapy dog to many residents of area hospitals, nursing homes and private residences. Tigger was nominated for the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame by VVMA member veterinarian Dr. Rich Armstrong.
Marie is afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy. Many days of the year she is confined to a wheel chair. She has had many difficult days, and at times she finds life itself a real struggle. Three and one-half years ago, Marie’s daughter’s dog had a litter of healthy, roly-poly puppies. When it came time to find homes for six dogs, Camelle decided to give her parents a new family member. Finding this happy puppy on the porch was a surprise to Marie and her husband. Should they keep this pup? The decision was made when Marie, having an appointment with the staff at Burlington Health and Rehabilitation, found the puppy very content to sleep through the entire meeting under the table. It also seemed that the staff and patients were very eager to accept the new puppy.
Marie started to take Tigger everywhere with her. While grocery shopping, Tigger spontaneously started to pick up items that Marie dropped. With extra help at dog obedience classes, Tigger started to show signs of being a very talented dog. Soon he was retrieving dropped gloves, balls and socks, opening doors and even retrieving Marie’s lost keys. Learning to retrieve a particular phone on command was a bit more demanding, but soon Tigger was happily bringing the special phone to Marie. In case of an emergency, this phone could be used to call for help.
Living in rural Vermont can be a challenge to anyone, but for someone with Muscular Dystrophy it can be terribly isolating. Tigger allowed Marie to go for walks on the isolated Vermont roads. He was her constant companion and friend. He was her helper and guardian. Tigger allowed Marie to lean on him, both physically and emotionally, allowing mobility and independence previously unknown to her.
In 2003, Marie’s parents passed away. In their honor, Marie decided to train Tigger as a Vermont Therapy Dog. Tigger, Marie and husband Ron all had to pass rigorous testing to become certified as Therapy Dog and handlers. They wanted to register Tigger as both a Companion Service/Assistance Dog and as a Therapy Dog, but regulations allowed only one designation. Marie knows, however, that Tigger is both those things and so much more.
Since Tigger’s certification, he has visited Fletcher Allen Hospital and other medical residences many times. He has brightened the days of many patients and made friends with everyone he meets. Krystal, a child with Cystic Fibrosis is shown here with Tigger and Lily.
Tigger has opened physical doors and emotional doors for Marie, allowing her to have a social life she could merely have dreamed of in the past. Tigger has also provided the love and understanding that so many people require in their time of sickness and need.
Tigger is still young, only 3 1⁄2 years old at this time. He has done so much already, who knows what he will accomplish in the future? But, if you ask Marie, I think she would say that Tigger has been her lifeline and we all must agree that he is well on his way to offering this service to many others.
The VVMA is especially pleased to induct Tigger into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame as the 2004 Animal of the Year.