Memorial Hospital Therapy Team honored by Commission on Aging

May 29, 2024

Contact: Tim Kershner, / 603-356-5461 ext. 2198 or 
Carrie Burkett, / 603-356-5461 x2264

five adults standing together in front of three flags
Marion Owen (center) holding Lilla Du is honored at the NH Statehouse with (l-r) Memorial Hospital volunteer coordinator Peter Waugh, Memorial Hospital Manager of Community Health Improvement and New Hampshire Commission on Aging Chair Sue Ruka RN, Ph.D., Marion’s husband Rob Owen, and Memorial Hospital President Bradley Chapman, FACHE.

North Conway, NH – Bartlett’s Marion Owen has been named New Hampshire’s Senior Adult Volunteer of the Year for Carroll County. A small canine played a large role in the achievement and accepted the award with her.

Lilla Du, Marion Owen’s seven-year-old rescue Dachshund-Chihuahua-Pit Bull mix, is a therapy dog certified through the organization Love on a Leash. The two are familiar faces at Memorial Hospital in North Conway where they visit patients and, when called by staff, make special trips to visit with patients for whom a wagging tail and a wet nose is needed.

The award was presented in the New Hampshire Statehouse Executive Council Chambers with Governor Chris Sununu giving short remarks. Award recipients from nine other New Hampshire counties were also honored. The ceremony was organized by the State Commission on Aging to recognize Older Americans Month.

Marion and Lilla Du were nominated by Memorial’s volunteer coordinator Peter Waugh who noted their influence on patients and staff. “Everyone’s demeanors and moods change to joy. Many times, they will entertain folks with tricks and other fun antics,” adding that Lilla Du “especially loves belly and back rubs.”

The state house presentation noted this team's more 230 hours of volunteer service to Memorial Hospital. “I’m not doing this to impress anybody or to do something special,” Marion said later. “I enjoy watching this girl [Lilla Du] do what she does and how people react to her.”

A man and a woman standing together holding a small dog
Marion and Rob Owen with Lilla Du.

Lilla Du was adopted six years ago from the Conway Humane Society. “I wanted to get a large dog for hiking and camping,” Marion recalls. “When I went to put a hold on one, I saw Lilla Du crying and I asked, ‘Does she do that 24-hours a day?"  Told that the dog would “wake up, go outside and go to the bathroom, come back in, nibble a little food, drink a little bit, then crawl in bed and cry herself to sleep.”  Marion remarked to her husband, “I need to take care of that girl.”

Soon, Marion noticed her new dog’s empathy towards people. While visiting her ailing mother-in-law in a Vermont nursing home, Lilla Du instinctively jumped on the bed, letting her know “she wasn’t alone.”  Soon afterwards they heard a crying child at the Home Depot. Lilla Du pulled on the leash until they were close to the child. Marion said to the mother, ‘I think my dog wants your daughter to pet her.’ Soon the child was on the floor quietly petting Lilla Du. That's when Marion decided that she needed to share Lilla Du and began researching pet therapy.

Last year Marion and Lilla Du visited the Central Maine Hospital in Lewiston and the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord, following shootings that impacted the staff at the facilities. “It was very emotional, but Lilla Du was calm,” she remembers about going to Lewiston. “All the people were focused on her. Doctors and nurses sat on the floor, letting Lilla Du crawl into their lap, and began petting her.  "Watching her be there for them, was very moving.”

In addition to Memorial, Marion and Lilla Du visit the Conway Adult Day Center, Merriman House, the Mineral Springs nursing facility, and the Manchester VA Medical Center. At the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, Marion and Lilla Du visited with residents prior to presenting a magic show with her husband. Marion and her husband, Rob, are retired circus clowns. She's originally from Wisconsin, Rob is from Colebrook, New Hampshire and they met in Oregon while working on a tent circus.


About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Memorial Hospital is also home to The Merriman House nursing home, which provides senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. For more information,  or call 603-356-5461.