18 March

Zinnia At Bishop Maginn

by Jon Katz

When Zinnia was a puppy, I trained her with some students from Bishop Maginn High School.

What better training, I thought, than to familiarize her with the people she would be working with as she got older. Many of the children we trained with have moved on and gone to college or jobs.

But the training really took hold, she grew up learning how to make children smile. This wonderful dog was loose with scores of kids, many strangers, outside on a patio as they raised money for Ukraine relief.

Sometimes she was on a leash, sometimes not. She made me proud, as always. I was busy, she went from person to person, tail wagging, eager for a scratch, a hug, or someone to kiss on the chin.

The pandemic sharply curtailed our training at the Mansion, and Bishop Maginn,  but Zinnia was certified as a therapy dog. She always saw Bishop Maginn as a second home; she is always at ease and comfortable there.

Zinnia has the great therapy dog’s intuitive instinct for the people that need her.

Many Bishop Maginn students have never known a dog as a friendly pet; they have often sent the guard and tracking dogs of soldiers and the police. Some get sad sometimes, or depressed and sulk or cry.

Zinnia spots them right away and goes to work.

Zinnia senses a child who fears dogs or who is sad or crying. The inner-city dogs often grow up around pit bulls and big guardian dogs; they often fear dogs and have awful memories of them.

Zinnia spots them. She goes to them, puts her head on their knees, and looks up at them with her big brown eyes and tail wagging. When we come to the school, Sue Silverstein calls up the fearful kids and the sad ones, and we go to work.

Nine times out of ten, they walk away smiling. Zinnia has lots of magic in her. She is sweet and soft and safe.

She flips these children, many of whom come running up to her the minute she shows up. She was spectacular at Bishop Maginn today during the fundraising for Ukraine.

The kids were all outside kneeling on the sidewalk to paint Sunflowers, the Ukrainian National Flower, with colored chalk. Zinna went right to work, and she loved having the kids down on her level, where she could shower them with nuzzles and licks.

She brought love and feeling to the fund-raiser, which was sad at times. The pandemic did nothing to slow or erode her therapy skills; they come right from the heart of this sweet and caring creature.

The Mansion residents know her well; we are busy meeting people we haven’t yet met. The pandemic changed everything.

She brings calm, stillness, safety, and a great big heart. The seniors are already talking about how much they will miss her, and we both will miss coming to Bishop Maginn, a unique school full of love and feeling.

She loves being touched, petted, having her ears rubbed, licking kids on the chin. I can tell she loves turning them from fearful into careful into loving. It’s a critical mission, both at the Mansion and Bishop Maginn.

I don’t know what the new school will be like. I’m told that Zinnia will be welcome there, but it’s not a second home, at least not yet. I suspect she will be as loved there as she was here.

The kids will be different, the work will be extra. I’m eager to get there and check it out. But one thing I do know.

Zinnia is a beautiful therapy dog, and the needy and vulnerable people of the world need to know her, and she needs to do her outstanding work.


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