A ‘pawsitive’ volunteer visit

During National Volunteer Week (Apr. 14 to 20) learn how St. Joseph’s volunteer Michelle Daigle, and her beloved Great Dane, are uplifting spirits and bringing comfort to those in need at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute
Maverick and Michelle
Michelle Daigle and Maverick

As Maverick strolls through the hallway of St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s), a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers begin to gather - recognizing him by name. Maverick isn't your average St. Joseph’s volunteer - he's a majestic five- year-old Great Dane, proudly displaying his name tag and eager to get to work.

Maverick and Michelle with staff

Michelle Daigle, Maverick’s handler, forms this dynamic duo of volunteers. Together, they participate in a volunteer pet therapy program at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute, spreading joy to both patients and staff wherever they go.

“He’s a gentle giant,” says Michelle. “It brightens people’s day and gives them a chance to think about something else just for a while.”

Michelle and Maverick began volunteering at St. Joseph’s in the summer of 2023, but Michelle notes that she has volunteered in various ways for most of her adult life. She found her way to Parkwood Institute through volunteering with The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program, which involves trained therapy dogs and their handlers visiting various facilities to provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support to individuals in need.


“It just makes you feel good to do something for others,” she says. “I’m a social person who enjoys meeting people and getting involved. It’s important to get out into your community and St. Joseph’s has been such a welcoming environment for us.”

Once a week, Michelle and Maverick visit with patients, families and visitors in St. Joseph’s Complex Care Program.

Michelle highlights that despite Maverick's towering presence, his gentle demeanor and considerable stature are beneficial for patients with limited mobility. Because of his height, patients can conveniently interact with Maverick from their beds, eliminating the need for them to strain or relocate. This also eliminates any need for the dog to climb onto the bed itself.

“Maverick has a great temperament and meets people where they are at – no matter what kind of day they might be having,” explains Michelle.  “The idea is to leave them feeling a little more uplifted and take away anything that they might be worrying about away in that moment.”

St. Joseph’s therapeutic recreation specialist Judy Beitz works closely with the volunteer duo, helping to determine which patients would benefit from the pet therapy at bedside.

“The patients love seeing them every week to hear what antics they have been up to the previous week,” says Judy. “It also provides the patients with a variety of opportunities including talking about their own pets, improving hand function or practicing their speech.”

In addition to patient visits, Michelle and Maverick also volunteer their time with a staff and physicians as part of an ongoing pet visitation program offered through St. Joseph’s staff well-being programming.

"I've had staff approach us to thank us for brightening up their day. Some like to show me photos of their own dog or pet. It’s a great way to add distraction and joy to someone’s otherwise busy day.” -Michelle Daigle

"The staff enjoy the visits as much as the patients," says Michelle. "I've had staff approach us to thank us for brightening up their day. Some like to show me photos of their own dog or pet. It’s a great way to add distraction and joy to someone’s otherwise busy day.”

staff with maverick the dog
Staff members visiting with Maverick the dog

After an enjoyable day for Maverick, he ends each volunteer shift with a delicious dog treat just for him – a plain hamburger from McDonald’s.

“It’s been a great experience volunteering at St. Joseph’s,” says Michelle. “To know that you make a difference in someone’s life is extremely rewarding. And both Maverick and I look forward to the many more visits – and treats – to come.”

Want to volunteer?

If you are interested in volunteering at St. Joseph’s, visit St. Joseph’s volunteer information to learn more.  You can also email our Volunteer Services Team at @email or call 519-646-6100 ext. 44050

Back to all Stories
  • Become a Volunteer

    At St. Joseph’s, volunteers make a difference in the lives of others every day. From spending time with war heroes, to helping seniors gain independence, to lending a compassionate ear – we are grateful for the vital support they provide to our patients, residents and staff.  You can make a difference too!

    a group of two men and three women volunteers each showing a thumbs up