In honor of Brooke

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

In a book by Cynthia Rylant, “God created Dog Heaven, a place where dogs can eat ice cream biscuits, sleep on fluffy clouds, and run through unending fields.”

HEARTBEAT AT THEIR FEET — Brooke the Therapy Dog and her owner, Carol Honaberger, read to children at the Bridgton Public Library.

If there is such a place, Brooke, the 11-year-old golden retriever of Carol and Dale Honaberger of Bridgton, has surely earned it.

For nearly five years, Brooke served as the therapy reading dog in the Children’s Room of the Bridgton Public Library. Every Friday afternoon, Brooke shared her enthusiasm, her love of life, with the children who came to read to her. Before that, she worked at Sebago House, a residential facility for troubled adolescents. Previously, she brought comfort to patients at a mental health facility in Conway, N.H.

She was at the library on a recent Friday when she started having seizures. She was rushed to a nearby veterinary hospital, but they couldn’t save her. Her heart gave out.

Last Friday, those who loved Brooke, both young and old alike, gathered in the Children’s Room to remember her. On a table, Children’s Librarian Annika Black had set out a display. There were pictures of the children reading to Brooke. There was a basket filled with dog biscuits, and her red vest, which read “Therapy Dogs, Inc. Sharing Smiles and Joy. I am a therapy dog.”

Brooke used to sniff biscuits out of people’s pockets until they gave them up. She’d check the trash cans for treats. One time, said Julie Thompkins, Brooke snatched a card, with money in it, from her purse. “It was so comical, I couldn’t believe it,” Thompkins said.

IN HONOR OF BROOKE — Holding a copy of Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is Dale Honaberger, with his wife Carol, left, surrounded by some of the children and adults who came to love their therapy dog, Brooke, who held weekly reading sessions in the Children’s Room of the Bridgton Public Library. Brooke died unexpectedly of a heart attack a few weeks ago at age 11, and Friday’s remembrance gave everyone a chance to remember her. Sitting beside Carol is Harrison Z. Morin. Sitting beside Dale, from left, are Alicia Silverblade, Kyle Grigg and Toni Field. In back, from left, are Aaron Silverblade, Alex Silverblade, Tyler Silverblade, Rose Hagerstrom and Zoe Silverblade. (Geraghty Photo)

But Brooke knew her real purpose: it was lying regally on the cushioned bench, while her young subjects gathered around her to read. Because above all else, she loved to please.

“The children would read to her, and it made such a difference in their reading levels,” said Black.

Brooke received her training as a therapy dog working in a nursing home with her older sister, Shady, another golden retriever and therapy dog owned by the Honabergers, who had four golden retrievers and six dogs over the years.

“She and I were very close,” Carol said. “We walked every morning. She was so happy when she saw her leash.”

In the future, the couple, who own The Lamp & Shade Shop on Main Street, may decide to get another golden retriever, but it’s too soon to say for sure.

“There’s no replacing Brooke. She was very enthusiastic. She loved people and she loved other dogs,” Carol said.

Dwight MacCormack, a friend of the Honabergers, was on hand for Friday’s remembrance. He recalled a quote from Edith Wharton that seemed to sum up Brooke’s impact on the lives of so many people: “My little old dog — a heartbeat at my feet.”

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