Mary Hahn Ward

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Mary Hahn Ward is the author of Letters Home. Paws at Work is her second book. She holds a graduate degree in Health Services Management and Policy and a Master of Public Administration. She is currently an educator. Mary is the proud mom of a daughter who is an elementary school teacher, a son who is serving the U.S. Army, and is a grandma to a delightful grandson. She is a caregiver to her husband of 36 plus years. Her husband is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS. Mary is currently serving as a fellow with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. She advocates on behalf of military/veteran caregivers, and, in particular, those caregivers whose veterans are battling ALS. Mary believes strongly in caregivers taking good care of their mental, and physical health. Her self-care is photography and writing.



BY Mary Hahn Ward • POSTED ON Nov. 5, 2016

Short but powerful story for older middle-grade readers about a service dog and her handler by educator and coiner of the term “faction” (fiction based on fact) Ward (Letters Home, 2004).

On her second birthday, yellow Labrador retriever Maddie was awarded to Tom Ward, a Marine Corps veteran with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Trained as a service dog since she was 5 weeks old, Maddie spent an additional two weeks training with Tom before they traveled to his home in North Carolina. The story details the ways Maddie assists Tom—opening the kitchen drawers and refrigerator, picking up things he has dropped, sensing when he is tired or cold, etc.—while also providing guidelines for young children on how to behave around a service dog. Through photographs and text (sometimes told from Maddie’s point of view), the reader learns that a service dog should never be approached or touched when working with a handler unless the handler gives permission. Some information on the progression of ALS also emerges in the story. As fitting for a children’s book, the story not only shows how Maddie helps Tom, but provides a glimpse into their life together—going to the beach, dining out, playing ball, and having a late afternoon snack. The author—Tom’s spouse—also provides information on the service organization that provided them with Maddie as well as other useful links. While the text is well-written and provides important, heartfelt information, the photographs elevate this work. More than words possibly could, they convey the close relationship shared by Tom and Maddie. In addition, seeing Maddie in action clarifies how she provides various services to Tom. The only way the book falters is in Maddie’s canine commentary, which might amuse kids but jar an adult reader.

Affecting, insightful, and informative account of a lovely service dog and her handler.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-72960-1

Page count: 62pp

Publisher: MHW Creative Works

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017


Letters Home: From 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Military Mom Shares Her Family's Story of Patriotism, Courage and Love

Letters Home is a memoir of one family's war experience as told by Mary Ward, the mother of an infantryman, and through the letters their soldier wrote home from basic training to his last letter from Fallujah. The Ward family pulls the veil back and allows the reader access to their hearts and minds while their son, Sean, was in one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Sean's letters are an evolution from youthful enthusiasm to the depths of war.
Published: Oct. 1, 2004
ISBN: 978-0976017202