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Toy-loving pooch spurs Toy Fund donation



For the Gazette
Tuesday, December 04, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — When Pat Riggs and her partner Marianne Banks skimmed through the Gazette’s series of feature stories on donors to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, they found themselves reminiscing on a small, toy-loving companion of their own.

For the couple, whose dog Nuala lived and breathed toys, donating to the fund for the first time in Nuala’s honor didn’t require much contemplation.

Nuala was widely known among the couple’s social circle for her effervescent love for toys, and even had a selection waiting for her when she visited the homes of friends and family.

“I don’t have children, and I wouldn’t say that my dog was my child, but we had a very special relationship. Toys were very important to her. Donating in her honor just made sense,” Riggs said. “Our friends had toys at their houses for her, too. They would be tucked away, but Nuala would relent until they got them out for her. She would get enamored by a toy and not give up on it.”

Nuala, who passed away two years ago, was a Chihuahua mix, and was rescued by Riggs and Banks when she was only a year old.

“We got her from a vet who specialized in small dog rescues. I knew this vet always had Chihuahuas, and I really wanted one,” said Riggs. “Nuala was a mix, so she didn’t really look like a Chihuahua. She had long legs, she was tall and she didn’t have a smushed-in nose. But she did have the annoying barking tendency.”

Eager to please

Nuala brightened the lives of Riggs and Banks for 12 years, bringing smiles to their faces with her playful spirit through even the hardest of times.

“She was especially sweet during Marianne's yearlong recovery from brain surgery, during which Nuala was her constant companion and champion. She was very personable, and a huge part of Marianne’s healing. I’ve never had a dog like her,” said Riggs. “She was just eager to please, and what more can you ask for in a dog?”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St., Suite 200 in Hadley, MA 01035, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Riggs moved from Long Beach, California, to western Massachusetts after graduating from Boston University’s School of Social Work. She was a hospice social worker for 21 years, and has worked as a psychotherapist at her own private practice in Florence for six years.

Banks works as a self-employed elder caregiver. The basis of the couple’s life work is helping others, and donating to the Toy Fund is only a small extension of it. Nuala’s influence in their initial decision to donate last year has carried on to 2018’s holiday season.

“I definitely plan on donating again this year,” said Riggs. “Nuala was just a perfect little dog, and we haven’t yet gotten another one yet because we can’t imagine finding another like her. We think the Toy Fund is an appropriate means of continuing to honor her memory.”

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St. Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The ToyBox, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.