Berkshire Humane Society lost a truly amazing friend when Louise McCord died suddenly at her home in December. John Perreault, Executive Director, first met Louise in the early 1980’s when he brought his new puppy to obedience classes sponsored by the Great Barrington Kennel Club. He clearly remembers her as being welcoming and knowledgeable. Over the years, Louise became a strong supporter of Berkshire Humane Society.
I became a good friend of Louise when I joined Berkshire Humane Society. We immediately clicked because of our love of our golden retrievers! What I clearly remember about her was that there were no strangers in her life. She immediately found friendship with everyone she met. Louise taught second grade for more than 30 years at Taconic Hills Elementary School where she was adored by all her students.
After her “retirement” Louise took on a “full-time job” volunteering for many groups and programs. Her life-long love of dogs brought her enormous happiness, from training in obedience competitions achieving the coveted AKC Utility Dog title with her dearly-loved Golden Retriever, Honey, to training for therapy work with all her goldens. Louise was always happiest when she and her golden girls were doing their therapy work. They did weekly Therapy Dog visits to Pre-Kindergarten and special education classrooms at Taconic Hills. She developed the “Dogs Love Books” program at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library in NY where they did weekly visits which encouraged children to read to the goldens. She also developed an innovative children’s reading to dogs program for the first and second grades at Taconic Hills Elementary School called: “Tail Waggin Tutors”. Every picture I ever saw of Louise and her goldens doing their therapy work with children made me smile. The goldens certainly worked their magic as the kids surrounding them having a wonderful time petting the peaceful, smiling and petting the soft fur of the beautiful kind goldens. And there would be Louise, just glowing at the scene in front of her. She was so very proud of each of her golden fur kids.
Louise explained to me that she always named her dogs after various foods and her cats named for various wines. The goldens I remember meeting and loving on were, Cinnamon, Spice, Vanilla, Toast, Honey, Tanzy and beautiful Cookie. All of her goldens, except one, were from Heartland Golden Retriever in TN. The reason they came from Heartland was because Pauline, the director, knew exactly the type of golden Louise needed to continue her therapy work. The golden had to be really sound, have a great temperament, etc. Therefore, once a golden went into foster and “proved” to be a good therapy dog, she was sent to Louise. And sure enough, each golden Louise adopted, after months of work turned out to be the perfect therapy dog!
In addition to always making time to help children in need, Louise and her Golden Therapy Dogs also did weekly visits to nursing homes, hospitals, Veterans’ homes, and Hospice. Also every summer Louise and her dogs would come to BHS’ Camp Humane where she would talk about responsible pet care and therapy animals. Our campers loved listening to Louise and interacting with her very loving Golden Retrievers. The children would have the opportunity to “dress” the goldens in various costumes that Louise would bring to her to class. In April, Louise and her rescued Golden, Cookie, came to Dower Square as part of our Humane Education programing at the public housing development. There Louise sat outside, surrounded by children of all ages. Given Louise’ warmth and kindness, they shared a lot, including an abundance of hugs when it was time for her and Cookie to leave.
Louise always looked forward to “Woofstock”, our annual dog walk. As she would be the first of her therapy dog group to arrive with her goldens sticking their heads out the windows anxiously awaiting all the attention they would receive. Then Louise would unload her stuff and the goldens would come out. She lovingly called her golden girls the Barbie Dogs…as they loved to be dressed with various items. Oh the joy of hanging out with her and her Barbie Dogs.
It is actually overwhelming to think about everything Louise and her goldens did to help others in need. She was always willing to do and do more. Louise received many awards, such as RSVP top award winner for her volunteer time at her local library and food pantry, the NY State Office for the Aging – Columbia County Honor award for numerous volunteer hours; and her beloved dog Tansy won the Goldstock Fund’s first Annual Legacy Award for therapy dog extraordinaire! When I would complement Louise for any of her awards she would quickly say that it was the goldens that deserved the award, not her. It was the dogs that did the work! Of course I always said it was a partnership and both deserved praise.
I will never forget Louise and her goldens. She was a person who gave so much of herself to helping others and never expected nor wanted any praise. Louise gave from her heart without hesitation. She had no ego. What made her the happiest was sharing her goldens with anyone in need.
I was invited to Louise’s house many times over the years to join her and all her other therapy dog friends but unfortunately never made it to her home. Sadly at her brother’s request, I did go over to the house after Louise passed. When I walked it her home, it was just as I expected…a very lovely, pet friendly home, full of dog toys, leashes, pictures and other items as well as cat toys and scratching posts. I walked into one room and I stopped dead in my tracks. It was a room full of ribbons, awards, pictures and trophies….a room that certainly reflected Louise’s life! I knew that Louise and her golden girls had won awards…but I had no idea of how many awards they acquired. Because Louise always downplayed any awards they received because she did not like to draw attention to herself, I am sure this room was a source of joy and comfort to her and her numerous therapy dog friends. Louise’s home was full of warmth and love…and I fully realized why all her therapy dog friends went to Louise’s house for all their gatherings…so the adults could enjoy a good meal, a few drinks by the pond while all the dogs played and swam together!
Louise’s love of her many Golden Retrievers over the years was unquestionable. Her license plate holder read: “Louise and her therapy dogs”. She was a lady who had no airs….what you saw was what you got. She was straight-forward, warm, caring, honest and oh so loving. I hope everyone is as fortunate as I was to meet such a wonderful person which I feel was a once in a lifetime experience.
I will always miss Louise, but I am so blessed that our paths crossed. She was one in a million….a lady who truly cared, made a difference for countless adults and children, and will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. Louise passed away quickly and peacefully in her chair with her Golden Retriever, Cookie, and her two cats, Chablis and Merlot at her side. As sad as it is, this is what I wish for…a “happy death”, an unexpected death, with little if any suffering and a death surrounded by what means the most to me. I am sure this is exactly how Louise would have wanted it. Godspeed dear friend….you will live forever in my heart!