Fun and games at benefit for Assistance Dogs of the West

SANTA FE, N.M. — Here’s a fun thing to do when you’re in England. Go to a county fair and watch the dog trials!

The English are very serious about their dogs and love them madly. They take them absolutely everywhere. And the games at the fairs are SO amusing! Earnest little tykes bounding forth through their field exercises, the British-accented announcer gleefully calling out their names and antics, and dispensing the prized prizes.

So it was at a very unusual and fun benefit for Assistance Dogs of the West, which included both human and canine guests for some unusual festivities and reveling in one another’s companionship.

The picnic featured exciting field trial-type games for the dogs (the ones who knew the drill on how to compete in these kinds of games) – just run through the hoops, over the jumps, and around the stanchions and back, then you get a treat!
One enthusiastic little beastie forgot the rules and went straight for the treat, bypassing the field exercise altogether, but convincing the judge that he nevertheless deserved a treat immediately, while sort of stealing the show.

However, most of the pooch guests in attendance were elegantly well behaved for the event and many, but not all, of the dogs were Trained Assistance Dogs of the West alumni. I can only imagine what our two labs were thinking with so many strange doggies around, but Basil was very excited and his reaction was to present his master, my husband Paul, with Number One on his pants leg, so that was a really fun start to the event.

There were fancy salmon canapés and organic hors d’oeuvres being passed around … all were canine foods and safe for humans, too. Oops! What? But our dogs sure enjoyed theirs. Yum yum yum!!

A great element of this event (especially for the people) was Porter Dillon’s wonderful original recipe, homemade Frito pies and yummy green chile cornbread – the perfect thing for lunch outside on a crisp day, chatting with, to, and about the dogs.

Twenty-eight-year-old Patrick McDowell told us that he has had type 1 Diabetes since he was 4, and his life has been saved by his trained assistance dog, Panda. With this type of diabetes, Patrick can sleep through dangerous highs and lows of blood sugar. For example, a blood sugar number of 75 is low and at 50, one would be in a coma. Once Patrick was at 30, asleep, and Panda sensed the life-threatening status and awakened him. Now, Patrick and Panda are inseparable … naturally.

Trevor, the hospice dog at Christus St. Vincent, is licensed and trained for specialty hospice work. Research is showing that Alzheimer’s patients can make brain reconnections through music and through animals. There are 13 Alzheimer’s patients in the El Castillo Memory Unit who are now using hospice dogs, good for the patients and nice for the dogs.

Assistance Dogs of the West has an incredible track record training dogs and matching them to their new owners. Founder Jill Felice can regale you for hours with stories of the miracles these dogs have performed in tragic circumstances: the woman who was having a heart attack, another gripped in an epileptic seizure when her dog jumped on top of her and startled her out of it.
The success of Assistance Dogs of the West is primal, loving and sweet. It is not high-tech. Something as old-fashioned as “man’s best friend” turns out to be … man’s best friend. Something as basic as a life saver turns out to be … a life saver.

Visit for more information.

Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email

Assistance Dog Trevor with Gwen Muchmore.

Patrick McDowell and Hannah Foss with Panda, assistance dog extraordinaire.

Peggy McDowell with Christus St. Vincent hospice dog Trevor.

Jess Ivey.

Caterer Porter Dillon.

Sandy Bosben, founder of Marty’s Meals, with Linda Milanesi, executive director of Assistance Dogs of the West.

James Bagby serves doggie hors d’oeuvres.





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