After retiring from a long, successful career as the owner of Maddie’s, a Marblehead, Massachusetts institution, and world-renowned sailing bar and restaurant, Sheila Duncan refocused her deep love for her community on children. Inspired by a comic sketched by her niece, Sheila developed a character named Trouble the Dog who has since become a powerful, and plush, agent of comfort and hope for kids in crisis, both locally and around the world.

After losing a number of family members to cancer within a short period of time, Sheila’s niece Kendra, then 12, wanted to help other children who are confronting some of the most difficult, scary, and challenging aspects of life, and dealing with circumstances they shouldn’t have to at such a young age. She drew a comic starring a dog that eventually became the character known as Trouble, a pup with a big heart who comforts children experiencing all degrees of “trouble” in their own lives, from poverty to bullying to illness.

Working together, Sheila and Kendra turned the original comic into a children’s book, and after noticing the impact the adorable pup was having on kids, Trouble the Dog was brought to “life” as a stuffed animal, complete with an adorably expressive face. Trouble’s mission? To absorb kids’ worries, make them smile, and help them hope, believe, and dream again.

trouble the dog

“Trouble isn’t simply a plush dog, but a coping mechanism for those facing difficulty,” Sheila told WYSK. There is a spirit and energy in him, and people can feel it. He continues to amaze even me.” 

As word began to spread about Trouble and his comforting powers, Sheila began donating the plush toy to children and families going through unheard of tragedies, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, and Boston Marathon bombing. Sheila continues to gift Trouble dogs to children’s hospitals, homeless shelters, and nursing homes, as well as to injured veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“This generation of children is more stressed than any before them – bullying, homelessness, violence, family instability, and substance abuse are but a few of the challenges they are facing,” Sheila said. “Through the work we’ve been doing, we have seen first-hand how Trouble can make a real difference to a child in crisis. Being able to bring comfort and hope to children who feel as though they have none, is what continues to propel me forward every single day.”

To manage all of the demand and further Trouble’s reach, Sheila established The Kennek Foundation, and through donations, along with the help of local police and fire departments, they are able to deliver Trouble dogs and books to more kids than ever before.

“The need for Trouble the Dog has increased tremendously in today’s upside down world,” Sheila explained. “My ultimate goal is to make sure kids who need Trouble can access him. In the future, I’d love to turn him into an animated cartoon so they can go through the bumps in the road of life gently and with humor.”

For more info on how to donate, gift or order Trouble products, click here. Trouble the Dog is 100% created and handcrafted in the USA.