As an emergency physician, Alister Martin, MD, MPP, MGH Emergency Medicine, learned countless lessons working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make people smile, it’s spending time with a puppy. So, when staff from the MGH Development Office needed some extra smiles after a difficult year, they paid a visit to NEADS World Class Service Dogs for what turned out to be a peaceful, healing experience they’ll never forget.
During what was described as the “best workday ever,” the team spent the afternoon playing and cuddling with “Larry’s Litter” – a litter of 11 Labrador retriever puppies and future service dogs named after the late Larry Brennan, who served as a senior development officer at the MGH before his death in August 2021.
After sustaining a neck injury that left him a quadriplegic at 18 years old, Brennan used a wheelchair. His NEADS service dog, Apple, joined him at the MGH, sitting in on meetings, helping to answer the phone, opening doors and pushing elevator buttons. Both Apple and Brennan were beloved by staff at the MGH.
“The moment you met Larry, you knew your life would be forever changed for the better,” says Krista McCabe, senior managing director of Development. “Losing him during the pandemic was the hardest kind of loss – loss without being able to come together as colleagues and friends to comfort each other in person.”
To honor his memory, Brennan’s colleagues from across the hospital raised and donated more than $10,000 for NEADS and partnered with the organization to name “Larry’s Litter.” Now 8 weeks old, six of the puppies will be trained to assist those with physical disabilities, hearing loss or developmental disabilities, and the rest will go to service dog organizations through a breeding co-op arrangement.
Meeting the puppies at NEADS brought comfort to the Development team as they continue to grieve the loss of their friend.“Visiting Larry’s Litter in person was part of our healing process,” McCabe said. “It was almost as if those puppies could see straight into our souls and offer the peace so many of us needed. They did this unselfishly, asking for nothing in return – just as Larry would have. He will live on and touch so many more lives. We couldn’t think of a more beautiful legacy for our beautiful friend and colleague.”
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