Owner Melissa MacWilliams of Buxton says being with Monson, a therapy dog and winner of a 2020 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence, has made her a better person. Monson is shown here chomping on some kale, one of his favorite treats. Contributed / Elizabeth MacWilliams

BUXTON — A dalmatian owned by Melissa MacWilliams of Buxton,was recently named one of American Kennel Club’s five heroic dogs for 2020, winning the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence in the therapy dog division.

The five winners were selected from more than 800 nominations, according to the AKC.

Monson, a 9-year-old therapy dog, brings “love and Joy” to therapy sessions, MacWilliams said.


“He loves everybody,” she said, “whether people live in a palace or are homeless.”

Monson hasn’t been able to make his rounds to schools, nursing homes and homeless shelters during the pandemic. MacWilliams and her dog were frequent visitors at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, where librarian Kelly Goodfield describes Monson as amazing.

“My kids miss him so much,” Goodfield said this week.

Monson’s photo is posted on the school’s website and he’s listed, according to the kennel club, as a staff member in the yearbook.

Goodfield, also the school’s Student Council advisor, said she requested a therapy dog to help students relieve stress.

Monson senses who needs him and his affection, Goodfield said.

During the pandemic, with in-person visits to the school off limits, MacWilliams has provided Goodfield with videos of Monson for the students. Still, Goodfield said, students still ask, “Where’s Monson?”

MacWilliams also has taken Monson to Sacopee Valley Middle School in Hiram. They visited fifth-grade teacher Marcie Russell’s classroom for three years. Monson would curl up in the reading area and put his head on students’ laps as they read to him, Russell said.

“Reading scores were higher each of the years he was in the classroom,” Russell said.

Monson participates with owner Melissa MacWilliams in an equine event in New York. Contributed / Sandy Lockwood

MacWilliams and Monson do great work, she said, and “I want them back.”

The pair has also comforted homeless youth at the Preble Street Teen Center in Portland. They worked with those with alcohol and drug addictions and brought cheer to residents of nursing homes.

MacWilliams hopes someday they will be accepted at Bonny Eagle schools where she graduated. She said it’s her way of giving back.

MacWilliams has had Monson since he was 8 weeks old. She said Dalmatians are “extremely smart” and Monson is loyal.

“They love to be with their families,” she said.

He’s a “rock-solid” 58 pounds, watches TV and his favorite treats are salmon and fresh kale from the garden, she said.

Monson works well around other animals, too. Displaying his versatility, he participated in equine training events with MacWilliams.

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