From Inmate to Inn Mate: One Pup's Story

PHOTO: Quinn relaxing by the fire place at Birchwood Inn after breakfast.Courtesy Birchwood Inn
Quinn relaxing by the fire place at Birchwood Inn after breakfast.

It's not so unusual for a dog to call an inn home.

But a dog who has done time?

Meet Quinn, a 14-year-old Golden Retriever who lives at the Birchwood Inn in Lenox, Mass. Today Quinn lives the good life--in semi-retirement at the inn, being taken on lunch dates by her owner and innkeeper Ellen Chanaux.

But life wasn't always so cushy. Quinn was donated by a breeder to become one of the first dogs in the Maine Prison Pup program at a minimum-security prison in Portland, Maine. Dog trainers school prisoners on how to train dogs, and then those dogs are assigned to people who need service animals. Bringing the dogs through the prison program, Chenaux said, is "mutually beneficial." It lowers training costs for service dog owners and provides inmates a job skill set that can be used upon release. Quinn is named for the programs founder, Sister Pauline Quinn.

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Chenaux came to be Quinn's owner through NEADS -- Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans. She had developed late-onset adult deafness and had specific needs from her service animal. Not the least of which, she told ABC News, was for that dog to be her alarm clock. After all, getting up ahead of your guests is one of the most important requirements of an inn keeper. Quinn, Chenaux said, "had a 100 percent success rate." Also it turns out Quinn's exceptional social skills made her the perfect host for an inn.

PHOTO: Quinn and Ellen cheering for Boston during a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.Courtesy Birchwood Inn
Quinn and Ellen cheering for Boston during a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.

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Among her other duties: letting Chenaux know when the stove timer had gone off, alerting her to the smoke detector, and being the first to respond to the doorbell whenever a guest arrived.

But recently, Chenaux noticed Quinn was slowing down. Turns out that, like her owner, she was losing her hearing. Chenaux got a new dog, Charley, to do the heavy lifting of a service dog around the inn, while Quinn was nudged into retirement.

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And despite her off-duty status, Quinn still sits with the guests every morning at breakfast. Her presence over the last 12 years had done more than make Birchwood Inn a "warm, welcoming place," Chenaux said. Quinn has increased the inn's bottom line.

"We're the only truly pet friendly inn in the area," Chenaux said. "People who want to travel with their pets choose us when maybe they otherwise wouldn't."