When Cyndi Willenbrock adopted Marshall the dog, he was in rough shape—both physically and mentally. He had been rescued by the Humane Society of Missouri from an animal hoarder’s property along with 60 other dogs. He was on the brink of death when they found him, with a mangled and infected leg and a hole torn through his cheek from fights with the other dogs over food. Doctors amputated the leg, stitched up his face and rehabilitated him for adoption— which is when Willenbrock met him, fell in love and took him home. She was instantly inspired by his resilience and tender demeanor in spite of it all, and decided that his story needed to be shared. “I knew he survived for a reason,” she says. And so, The Marshall Movement was born.
Willenbrock left her career in sales to work on writing a picture book, “Marshall the Miracle Dog,” to teach children about violence, bullying and compassion. The hope, she says, is that children can use Marshall as their voice when talking about their own experiences with bullying. For those in the disabled community, it’s a story of overcoming adversity and finding love and acceptance. Now, Marshall is a certified therapy dog, and he and Willenbrock visit classrooms and organizations like the Special School District of St. Louis County, the Girl Scouts and Paraquad St. Louis. The message is going national next, with a film adaptation of the book. Willenbrock is already working on a screenplay, and is in talks with a major Hollywood studio about producing it.