Puppy Raiser, Anne O'Riordan

Marcel: A life-changing award winner

Marcel is a 6-year-old Golden Retriever who took on a life-changing role in Co. Kerry and was the overall winner of the Irish Kennel Club’s Golden Paws Hero Dog Awards 2022!

His Puppy Raiser Anne O’Riordan tells his story…………

Marcel lives with me in Tralee Co. Kerry.  I puppy raised him from 8 weeks until 14 months.

Whilst training to become a Guide Dog, Marcel developed body sensitivity which means he can’t tolerate a harness on his back. As a result, Marcel was assigned to me as Irish Guide Dog for the Blind’s first Kerry-based Ambassador Dog. Ambassador Dogs have a very important role to play in raising awareness for IGDB’s work by attending events in local communities.

As an Ambassador Dog, not only does Marcel attend many events with the Tralee Branch of IGDB he also visits nursing homes, schools and hospitals where his presence has a remarkable impact.

Marcel senses when people are upset and will indicate that somebody requires his time and support. This has happened on many occasions even though the person is not visibly upset to the human eye. One example was in a hospital waiting area when Marcel indicated that he wanted to sit with a gentleman. Marcel went towards the man, sat by his walker and laid his head on his knee. The man was so grateful as he had just received bad news and was overwhelmed with Marcel’s love and comfort.

At the request of doctors, Marcel also visits specific patients in University Hospital Kerry to comfort parents and children. Marcel is also included in therapy sessions with vulnerable children and adults, where he will encourage and calm the patient.  

During lockdown, Marcel spent a lot of time with elderly friends of the Tralee Branch, providing them with companionship and a warm heart to lift their spirits during what was a very lonely and stressful time. Marcel visited the local hospital, where he spent days just being himself, giving the staff hugs and companionship to alleviate some of the stress they were experiencing. All done under strict Covid compliance.

Even as a pup Marcel showed an understanding and empathy for people. He stayed by Katie, my daughter’s side all day every day when she was recovering from open heart surgery. He would nudge her and insist she got off the couch and take him for a walk. She says to this day that Marcel is the reason she recovered so fast. Katie and I felt confident with Marcel taking her out for a walk. We knew that Marcel would walk at her pace and wouldn’t under any circumstances pull or drag her. Also, if the worst happened, Marcel would go find help.

I continue Puppy Training pups and Marcel plays a vital role, as puppies will imitate his good behaviour. When we hold training sessions with local puppies in training, Marcel also attends so he has an army of young boisterous puppies to teach how to behave!!

Marcel is my much-loved dog and the day I got him back from training was bittersweet. I was sad that Marcel had to be withdrawn from Guide Dog training, but I felt like I won the lottery to have him back home with me.

Marcel brings such love and comfort to my family and everyone who knows him.

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