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Sarasota teacher adopts dog her class met on field trip

Nicole Machenheimer and Maloney
Nicole Machenheimer and Maloney
Photo by Ian Swaby
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As Nicole Machenheimer and her seventh-grade class headed back from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the school bus in November 2023, Machenheimer’s thoughts weren’t just on the play they had seen, “The Call of the Wild,” which she called a “fabulous show.”

It was on a certain star who had taken the stage. 

Machenheimer asked her class what they thought of Maloney, the rescue dog from Satchel’s Last Resort, who had been a special guest preceding the performance, which was held specifically for students. 

The class agreed that Maloney was cute. 

When Machenheimer said she was going to adopt him, the students didn’t believe her at first — so she repeated the statement to show she was serious. 

“Why?” She recalls the students asking. 

“I don't know, I just feel like I really need to do that,” she said.

Taking the stage with Satchel’s volunteer Angelina Troche and Van Wezel’s director of education Justin Gomlak, the mutt had shown his gentle demeanor as he relaxed and even lay down before the crowd while his human companions discussed the mission of Satchel's. 

Satchel's Last Resort volunteer Anglina Troche, Maloney and Justin Gomlak, director of education at the Van Wezel take the stage.

Maloney’s family had to retire him to the shelter some months before due to unfortunate circumstances.

At first, the pup had been sad and unwilling to engage with anyone, but as he became adjusted to what had happened, he grew more outgoing.

“This particular day, we were like, ‘You know what, he would probably be very chill being in front of a crowd,” said Jill Creevy, board president of Satchel’s Last Resort. “So it was just kind of meant to be.”

During and after the performance, Machenheimer couldn't get Maloney out of her mind.

“I was just like, 'Oh my God he’s so cute. And he’s so big. And he needs a home,'” Machenheimer recalls thinking from the seat she occupied near the front of the auditorium with the class. 

Machenheimer went to meet Maloney that Saturday, and by Monday, had taken him home in time for Thanksgiving. 

"How wonderful it is that our intention was just to create awareness around the mission of Satchel's, and in fact that mission came to life thanks to the platform that the Van Wezel stage gave to Maloney," Gomlak said. 

Often, Creevy said, it can be difficult for the shelter’s larger dogs to find homes due to restrictions in condos and apartments on the size of pets.

“He came out of the shelter with lots of love, and now he's even doing so much better,” Creevy said. 

Nicole Machenheimer and Maloney, Jill Creevy, board president of Satchel's Last Resort and Muffy Lavens, public relations director at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Photo by Ian Swaby

Maloney fits right in at home with her and her husband Tom Machenheimer, Nicole Machenheimer said. 

At first, their dog Faith wasn't eager to lose her place as the only dog in the home, but after about a month, the two pets became friends, and now lick each other's faces. 

Maloney enjoys trips to locations like Celery Fields and Red Bug Slough Preserve, and will have the chance to take a trip to a cabin in North Carolina this summer. 

Machenheimer said his adoption has been impactful for the students, who have been eager to hear about Maloney. 

Although he may not be allowed on the school campus, he was integral to one school assignment. 

Before the holiday break, the students, who have been learning life science and genetics, had to submit their top three guesses for Maloney's breed. 

Machenheimer had a DNA test conducted over the break. 

Although a few students came close by guessing bullmastiff, no one guessed his precise genetic makeup, which was primarily pit bull and included German shepherd, beagle, Labrador retriever and bullmastiff — not Saint Bernard, as many had thought. 

But it didn't end there. 

“The kids and I have connected on a totally different level,” Machenheimer said.

She said the story led to students engaging differently in class as well, sharing their own stories about their pets. 

“They were really engaging, and owning that familial connection with their own pets, and sharing with each other, which I thought was neat."



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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