Megan Peterson, whose glossy photographs often grace the pages of our own JHStyle Magazine, leans down to give her dog, Quincy, a scratch on the head. When a toddler Wobbles by and reaches for Quincy’s soft fur, Megan reassures the boy’s mother. “Go Ahead,” she says. “He’s very friendly.”
Peterson has always loved Australian Shepherds for their intelligence and athleticism, but she noticed Quincy was more amiable and easygoing than the average Aussie.
“He has the perfect demeanor for therapy work,” Peterson says. “He’s constantly happy, he loves everybody. So I knew he should give back and make people feel good, make them smile. He’s wonderful at it.”
Shepherds love to have a job, and Quincy volunteers for Pet Partners, which has operated in Teton County since 1997. Dog and human therapy teams travel to places like the library, hospital, and children’s behavioral center to provide therapy, companionship, and support.
Currently, 36 teams work in eight programs, under the guidance and leadership of Kelly Chadwick, who organizes all the human and canine volunteers.
The library is one of Quincy’s favorites. He and Peterson participate in the Read to Me program, where kids can pick a book, snuggle up to Quincy, and read to him without the pressure of reading aloud to a teacher or classmates.
“You’ll see the quieter, more shy kids get very comfortable talking and reading to Quincy,” Peterson says. “It’s so sweet.” Quincy and Peterson are also regulars at St. John’s Hospital, where they visit different wings at patients’ requests. They also spend time at the Senior Center of Jackson Hole, Children’s Learning Center, and Teton Literacy Center, among other locations.
At C-Bar-V Ranch, a supportive learning center which helps children with special needs, Quincy interacts with teenagers by doing tricks and playing fetch. He provides unconditional love without judgment, a quality Peterson thinks we could all learn a lot from. She has witnessed the way kids respond to him, and she feels animals provide comfort, acceptance, and friendship in a way humans cannot. “He only sees a person’s positives,” Peterson says. “It’s just love right off the bat. The kids can sense that.”
When she’s not volunteering with Quincy or working as a professional photographer, Peterson also works as a trainer at Teton Sports Club. On her days off she can be found skiing, hiking, and biking, with her dog in tow, of course. Growing up along the landscapes of the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota, she has always had a canine adventure partner.
“Dogs wonderfully fill this void in your life that humans just cannot,” she says.