AUBURN — Kael Ouellette doesn’t have a dog at home. So when he goes to the Boys & Girls Club’s Auburn-Lewiston Clubhouse after school, he gravitates toward Doofus. Sometimes they play fetch with a worn tennis ball or kick around a basketball in the gym. Other times, they sit quietly in the office.

The easy-going corgi-collie mix fills the dog-shaped hole in Kael’s life.    

“He’s a good friend to me. Every time I’m sad, he cheers me up. Don’t you, Doofus?” the 10-year-old said, vigorously rubbing the dog’s belly.

For nearly four years, Doofus has been the unofficial mascot of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s local clubhouse —  part playmate, part cheerleader, part confidant.

Unit leader Andie Hannon began bringing Doofus to the club in 2007, soon after she began working there. The two had just moved from Ohio and the change — from a house with a yard to an apartment in the middle of a city — upset Doofus. Normally mellow, he showed his anxiety by barking wildly at the letter carrier every day. But at the club he got the distraction and companionship of 100 kids. Soon he was going to the Auburn clubhouse more often than he was staying home.

“It’s like he belongs to them as much as he does to me,” Hannon said.

With short legs, thick fur and a round belly, Doofus is eminently huggable. Passing the short distance between the gym and Hannon’s office, he’s stopped a half a dozen times by kids who wrap their arms around his neck or ruffle his fur. During the club’s evening hours, he often sits at the top of the stairs and gets head scratches from parents who have come to pick up their kids.

When the attention gets to be too much, he’ll curl up under Hannon’s desk or nap in the middle of the office floor, but even then he can usually be persuaded to join a game of fetch.

“He’s like family to us,” 12-year-old Bradley Matthews said. “He loves us. We love him.”

Over the years, Doofus has become an integral part of the club. On the bulletin board declaring “Our club family,” Doofus’ photo is posted alongside the unit director, program director and youth program assistant. He goes on club hikes, and the kids who join him get a T-shirt bearing his image.

For doing their homework and participating in academic activities, club members can earn “Doofus Dollars” — fake money with a picture of Doofus in the center — that can be traded in for prizes. During snack time, Doofus plays vacuum, weaving between kids’ legs and chairs to clean the gym of dropped food.

Hannon credits Doofus and his laid-back attitude for soothing upset children and calming potentially explosive situations. She likes to recall one day at the club’s summer camp when two boys were sent to the office for fighting. As they argued, Doofus sat between them, leaning first against one, then the other. As the boys began to pet him, they fell silent. A few minutes later, they apologized and left.

“After, the dog’s just sitting there like ‘Today’s job is done,'” Hannon said.

But at nearly 12 years old, Doofus can’t do everything he used to. Some club hikes are too strenuous, and some days are too cold to leave home. Hannon recently adopted a 7-month-old shepherd-collie named Jack. He will eventually take up some of Doofus’ duties. 

Though Doofus isn’t about to leave the club for good.

“He’s the glue that holds everything together,” 10-year-old Tabitha Charest said.

Have an idea for a pet feature? Contact Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or e-mail her at [email protected].

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