Equinox Terrace salutes 'most interesting' volunteers

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MANCHESTER — Surely, you wouldn't expect the actor who played "The Most Interesting Man In The World" to have just any dog as his companion.

Rest assured, Jonathan Goldsmith's dog, Willie, is unforgettable. He's 154 pounds, which would qualify him to enter the boxing ring as a light middleweight.

Goldsmith says Willie is friendly, unless you're not friendly. But with his handsome coat, doleful expression and impressive size, who wouldn't want to be friends with this fellow?

And that's the point of Willie's visits to the Equinox Terrace assisted living center — and why Goldsmith and Willie, and Mary English and her dog, Tater Tot, were honored Monday by the facility for their commitment to pet therapy visits with its residents.

Willie is an Anatolian shepherd dog, a breed native to Turkey and known for its intelligence, loyalty and gentle demeanor. He's a gentle giant who, along with Goldsmith, enjoys visiting the residents at Equinox Terrace.

"He loves coming here. If we go to [Shaw's] he starts whining to come over here," said Goldsmith, who portrayed Dos Equis beer's "Most Interesting Man in the World" for 10 years.

Tater Tot, a poodle-Labrador retriever mix, has been coming to Equinox Terrace for about eight years, English said. He's formed bonds with the residents, and sometimes that makes things difficult when they pass on.

"It's hard because people pass away, and he knows that room and that person who's in there, and it's hard," English said. "He knows who has the treats."

On Monday, Willie and Tater Tot happily poked their noses into bright blue gift bags that Equinox Terrace director Ann Bouza obtained from Pet Etc. on Depot Street to honor their service. The canine volunteers quickly put their noses to work, casting aside the decorative tissue paper and fishing out their quarry: oversized dog biscuits.

Tater Tot managed to chew off a good-sized hunk of his dog treat at first bite.

Willie finished his treat in two or three enthusiastic chomps, give or take a few crumbs — which he then thoroughly snuffled up.

While the dogs enjoy being fussed over, their human companions get as much or more out of it.

"It's joyous for me. He's so full of love," Goldsmith said. "My joy is sharing that with people."

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000 or at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com

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