Family, friends and admirers of Maggie the Service Dog gathered on Friday, Oct. 23, at Monroe Free Library to pay their respects.
Maggie passed away this summer after a brief illness. She was 14.
For the last few years, “Read with Maggie” had been one of the library’s most successful children’s programs.
To mark the occasion, and to honor Maggie for years to come, a plaque was installed in the library’s Children’s Reading Room. The plaque was provided by Hilary Prager, daughter of Maggie’s handler Eric Prager. Hillary Prager joined the ceremony virtually from Oregon.
Two of Maggie’s regular readers, Omarilynn Williams and Rayna Roberts, came to say thank you to Eric Prager for bringing Maggie to the library. Omarilynn presented Prager and his wife, Karen, with a handmade card.
There were many misty eyes as those gathered shared stories and memories about Maggie.
“She wasn’t just therapy for the kids,” said Diane Barone, the library’s children’s assistant. “She was therapy for the staff too - you always knew a smile was coming on Maggie days.”
“Maggie was a peaceful, loving presence who made kids feel safe and able to read without judgment,” said Melissa Quarles, head of the library’s Children’s and Young Adult Services. “Eric, too, is a wonderful listener so the combination of the two was amazing to watch and to be a part of. I will miss Maggie very, very much.”
Eric and Karen Prager rescued Maggie in 2008 from Pets Alive, a no-kill animal rescue, located in Middletown.
“We had looked at many other dogs,” Karen Prager said, “but we knew right away that Maggie was the right one for us.”
Though they did not originally intend to train her as a service dog, her natural traits suggested that she was capable of more than the average pet.
“She was extremely friendly yet calm,” Karen Prager continued, “willing to get active but not over-excitable. And because she was part lab, she was highly food motivated — making her easy to train.”
Maggie’s life was an adventure. She traveled with the Pragers across the country, hiking and kayaking though the National Parks. Everywhere she went, people would stop to pet her and share dog stories.
“She was a magnet for dog lovers,” Eric Prager said.
The Pragers kept in touch with some of the people they met on their journeys. One family with children reported that when asked what their favorite part of their trip to Yosemite was, the kids answered “Maggie.”
“Reading is an adventure, too,” Eric Prager added. “And we as adults need to use every strategy to get kids to read and to embrace the love of reading — and the dog strategy worked beautifully.”
“She will be in our hearts forever,” KarenPrager said, looking at the commemorative plaque. “And this is another way of reminding the world of how special she was.”