Sr Colleen with Doug the dog (maltese cross, 6 years old).

What a wonderful gift this cute, roly-poly, little, white dog is to the residents of MacKillop House at Norwest in New South Wales.

Rae, who was our manager, Fiona our Chaplain and myself as representative of the residents at MacKillop House, were invited to go on The Dog House, a heart-warming TV show where we were to select a dog suitable for our retirement home. What a privilege!

Many of the residents not only left loving and comfortable homes to come into care, but they also had to leave animals they loved, their beloved pets. While MacKillop House is now their home, there is grief at these goodbyes added to their other goodbyes. It is, however, wonderful that many of these animals come to visit their owners.

The interviewers and people involved in the program were all warm and loving. From Patricia, the receptionist, who had the ceiling plastered with photos of dogs who had found their forever homes, to the carers, interviewer and cameramen. From all we received a kindly welcome.

Fiona with Doug.

One of the basic questions the interviewer asked the three of us was how would we know the dog was right for us? Both Rae and Fiona were absolutely sure they would know as soon as they saw them. How right they were! As soon as we saw Doug’s little furry face poking around the door of the meeting room, there was a unanimous gasp from all of us. Yes this is it! And we never looked back. Doug had no chance. He was ours then and has been ever since.

There was paperwork and questions to follow up, of course, but that was Rae’s domain. Fiona and I could just hug him and pat him. Of course, when he finally arrived home, there were 84 others to follow our example. Doug sits on laps, sits at people’s feet, goes for walks with residents, defends his personal territory, the Dugout, with vigour but otherwise takes life as it comes with patience and passivity. We do not want an excitable dog for sure!

Doug arrived accompanied by Rae and Fiona on 11 October 2022. He was greeted by a crowd of residents, families and visitors. He was a little bewildered but allowed himself to be handed from one to another and to be hugged and petted.

After Doug had been with us for a while, it was decided to have a ‘Naming Day’ for him. He was to be given a name that acknowledged he really belonged here. Nearly all the residents gathered in our main meeting room, which had been decorated beautifully, to celebrate this event. Fiona led the ritual, speaking of animals and their place in Scripture. After that introduction, Doug was carried to and patted by every resident present at the gathering. No one was left out – this included some in wheelchairs. After that we all prayed a blessing over him praying that he would bring love and peace to each person he visited.

Finally, his official name was announced. Doug became Douglas MacKillop IST, Head of the Canine Pastoral Care Unit! Like all celebrations we finished this one with a feast.

Fiona takes Doug to visit people in the different wings each day. He stays with us two or three nights a week then has a break staying with either Rae or Fiona. There are other dogs in each place so he can socialise and enjoy himself. We miss him when he is not here.

Since he has come, my self-esteem has shrunk somewhat. If Douglas is with me the greeting is always for him: “Hi Douglas. How’s it going?”. Visitors stop and ask to take his photo. I am teaching him how to give autographs. (Just let me know if you want one!) Doug takes fame in his stride.

As I said before he is a gift to us. We owe The Dog House and the Animal Welfare Group they work with much gratitude for all they do to care and love animals and for making it possible for MacKillop House to have Doug.

Doug is a darling. No other word is good enough to describe him.

You can view MacKillop House featured on The Dog House here.

Colleen O’Sullivan rsj
MacKillop House