Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pocket Ross

One of Ross' kids responds so well to him, that we have a plan for staff to call or page me when he is escalated, to see if Ross (and I) are available. When we have been, this plan has worked incredibly! Unfortunately, we aren't always available, so the team was brainstorming back-up plans. Since Ross' Double is pretty much life size, his accessibility is limited by the activity, and we really needed something that this boy might be able to implement at school, etc. We decided to get a pocket sized version of Ross, and I later remembered that Guide Dogs sells them with jackets! So, along came Pocket Ross.

The other day, the boy and his parents stopped by my office, and the boy asked to come in and visit Ross. As he was visiting, I noticed that he had Pocket Ross with him. He set the stuffed dog on a chair, where Ross rested his head and gazed at the miniature version of himself, as if he were coaching Pocket Ross as to how to care for this boy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ross' Double Takes the Swing Shift

Unfortunately, the child we purchased Ross' stunt double for did not take to the stuffed dog as we had hoped. The double has since been moved from space to space, startling staff along the way ;)

Fortunately, the double has found a new purpose: A young boy on one of the units has difficulties falling asleep. (This isn't uncommon, as our kids are away from their families and homes, living in a facility without parents. Additionally, some of our children have experienced abuse and neglect, and bedtime can be very anxiety provoking for kids who have nightmares and other sleep difficulties.) Each evening, staff take this boy out to a quiet spot in the entry with Ross' double and a blanket. The boy cuddles up with the double and falls sound asleep, as staff read him a story then safely take him to bed.

Crisis Diverted


I received a call in my office from staff on the unit, asking if Ross was available. One of his kids was having a rough time, and they hoped Ross could prevent further escalation. I assured staff we would be over in a few minutes. 

When we arrived in the building, the door to one of our friend's office was open. Ross immediately stepped inside to say hello. Just as my coworker began to excitedly greet Ross, Ross instantly turned and left the office, guiding me around the corner. As I followed at the end of the leash, I saw a child step from behind the corner and exclaim, "Buddy!" Ross had somehow known he was there, and his mission was to see the child, not his adult friend.

As the boy began to pet and coo at Ross, another boy approached Ross as well. The second boy had never shown an interest in Ross before, but suddenly was drawn to Ross. The boys sat on the floor, where Ross covered their faces, ears, necks, heads, and hands in kisses. They laughed as his tongue tickled them, only encouraging Ross more. The boys rolled on the floor, petting and talking to Ross, and laughing uncontrollably. Crisis diverted.

As the clock neared 5:00pm, Ross began to disengage. Staff cued the boys that it was time to move on to dinner, and Ross began moving towards the outer door. He had done his job, and it was time for everyone to move on. Ross gave each boy one last kiss, and each boy gave me a side hug, as we said goodbye for the day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Radio Ross

Every December, a local radio station hosts a fundraiser for our agency, called "Rock-a-Thon." Employees record heartwarming tidbits about the services we provide, to air during the show. This year, when members of our marketing department met with the radio station employees to arrange the show, they told stories about Ross. The radio employees were so impacted by Ross, without having even met him, that we decided to include Ross in the show. 

Today we took him to the radio station to record our bit. As we walked through the building, people exclaimed, "Ross!" Ross too was excited, as there were many dog smells. As we were led to the recording studio, a tiny four-legged hairball chased Ross down the hall. Ross turned to see what was chasing him, never quite catching the little guy who was nearly too small to see!

Being as Ross doesn't speak, I had to represent him on the radio. Confident in my abilities to share his stories once again, I decided to do it improv style. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared for the emotion that overcame me as I thought of all the stories I could tell, and feared that I wouldn't be able to capture the magnitude of his effect in one short sound byte. Fortunately, it wasn't a live show, and technology allowed for fixing my many mishaps. In an effort to prove Ross' presence, we shook his collar, recording the jingling of his rabies tag.

On 12/12/08, thousands of people will hear about the wonderful work that Ross does, in his moonlighting job of "therapy dog."

Not Just for Kids

Ross isn't just "therapy" for kids, but for adults too! He has many regular visitors to the office - hard working adults who just need some puppy kisses to get through the day :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo Shoot

Ross poses for the camera at work. His photo will be featured on our agency website, advertising our "canine therapy" programs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good Morning

This morning, we arrived to work early, so that Ross could again assist a boy in completing his blood draw. The boy had been successfully completing his blood draws on his own for the last two months, after just one time of Ross helping. For some reason, he refused again last week, so I agreed to bring Ross to help again this week. Not being a morning person, we were running late. As we hurried onto the unit, the nurse caught us at the door, anxiously exclaiming, "Just in time!" The boy was with another nurse, sitting in a chair, sucking on the lollipop he was given as a consolation prize of sorts for completing his blood draw without Ross. But, we were just in time. I sat down behind the boy, and Ross sat next to him. The boy gently laid his hand on Ross' back, and sat calmly watching the nurse complete her task.

Just before getting ready to leave, I heard another client and staff enter the hall, the child escalated and staff trying to calm him down. I entered one hall, waiting for clearance to leave the building. As I stood in the hall, I heard quite the racket of the boy who was upset. Staff moved to block the hallway I was in, trying to keep me safe. The staff member then saw that it was me and Ross, paused, and said to the boy, "Ross is here, would it help to say "hi" to him?" From around the corner, I heard all commotion stop instantly, and the boy exclaimed, "Buddy?!" He then walked around the corner, calmly approached, and asked if he could pet Ross. I told him that as long as he was safe he could visit Ross. The boy smiled, caressed Ross' face, and knelt down to Ross' level. Ross covered his face in kisses and licked the remnants of breakfast off his hands. The boy smiled and cooed over Ross. Ross, tired from our early awakening, slowly slid to the floor and rolled on his side, pawing at his Halti in slow motion. The boy rolled onto the floor and laid facing Ross. Ross gently pawed at him, placing a paw on the boy's face, then laying perfectly still. While the boy and puppy exchanged affection, staff inquired as to whether Ross might be available to walk the boy to school. I let her know that we just happened to be heading that way :) The boy happily put his shoes and jacket on, and walked to school with us. He stopped at the front door, turned and bent down, exchanging a final kiss with Ross before heading inside to start his day the right way.

Coping Skill: Dog Walks


It had been a rough couple of days on our highest acuity unit. Sometimes children with severe mental illness do not mesh well with other children with severe mental illness. It's difficult to take care of yourself when others are aggravating you and you lack skills to handle stress in a healthy manner. In the average world, when a child states, "I'm going to blow out if I can't get out of here," people worry about that child causing trouble. In my world, when I hear that, I'm impressed by the child's ability to verbalize his/her frustration, concerns about needing help, and desire to have control over oneself.

As staff and I worked to keep as many children calm and safe as possible, I watched as one child paced the unit, telling staff as calmly as she could that she wasn't feeling like she could stay calm much longer. I watched as staff urged her to continue to be patient until they could do something more for her. I watched as she desperately tried to verbalize her need for help to the next person, before it was too late.

I was surprised to see her sit down on a couch, frustrated and disappointed, but still trying desperately to keep her cool. I approached and commented to the child and staff member what an awesome job she had been doing for many days, remaining safe under great measures of distress. Staff commented that she was trying to find someone to take the child out to play basketball, one of her "coping skills" (a healthy distress management tool), but that no one was available at the time due to the other kids needing their help to stay safe.

Assessing that the unit was beginning to calm and staff were managing it appropriately, I asked the girl if she would like to go see Ross, who was soundly sleeping in my office. Her face lit up immediately, and she excitedly took me up on the offer. We walked over to my office, where Ross got up from his bed to greet her. We then went into a meeting room, where Ross cuddled in her lap and kissed her face. After a few minutes, she requested to take Ross for a walk. We spent the next hour walking the perimeter of the large campus, as she spewed about things that she was anxious, upset, and happy about.

After passing the outdoor basketball court for the third or fourth time, she requested to go shoot some hoops. Upon entering the fenced area, I latched the gate behind us, took Ross' Halti and puppy coat off, and released him to "be a dog." Puppy scooties ensued, with Ross nearly spinning in place as his legs moved faster than his compressed body could follow. The girl laughed as she watched Ross race around the court, so excited to be a free puppy in the crisp fall air. As she practiced shooting hoops, she called for Ross to move, as he dumbly stood under the hoop just watching the ball. For Ross, it was a training opportunity for possible ball distractions (he wasn't at all distracted, more dumb founded), for the child, it was an opportunity to be a normal kid, playing outside with a ball and a dog. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ross is Awesome!

Today, while checking in with a child who had been in a physical restraint, Ross and I were intercepted by another client. An above-average-sized adolescent girl, known for her ability to be highly aggressive towards others, stood just inside the door. As I entered, she exclaimed "Ross!" and proceeded to kneel down on the floor and pet him. She smiled widely as she told Ross, and the staff around the room, how "awesome" he is. Soon she was sitting on the floor with him, turning her head as he covered her in kisses, so that he would lick the side of her neck. She laughed and turned her head the other way so that he would lick the other side. Soon, the two of them were laying on the floor together, exchanging mutual affection. She continued to exclaim how awesome Ross is, as she excitedly engaged staff in dog conversation and casually mentioned some upcoming situations that she is anxious about.

She and I have known each other for years, and despite her difficulties in trusting adults, we've always had a good working relationship. But it will never compare to the honest, nonjudgmental, all encompassing, love and compassion of a silent black puppy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Board Meeting


Today was a monumental day. Ross and I were invited by our CEO to be the guest speakers at the Board of Directors' meeting this morning. Well, I was the guest speaker, Ross was the guest sleeper.

The meeting was earlier than we usually arrive to work, and Ross was feeling it. When I sat down at the table, he sat in front of me, rested his head in my lap, and looked at me as if to say "It's too early to socialize." His act was received in turn with "oohs" about how sweet and engaging he is. It took no more than those heavy eyes to win The Board over instantly!

Ross presented as a perfect Guide Dog puppy, sleeping silently at my feet as I told the many incredible stories of the work he does and his effect on the kids. Frequently, The Board members leaned and bent to sneak a view of Ross sleeping peacefully, and I was politely interrupted with comments about how well behaved he was. It was a perfect opportunity to tell The Board about Ross' primary job as a Guide Dog puppy, and how he knows the difference between his work as a Guide Dog (sleeping through meetings and ignoring adults) and as a "therapy dog" (cuddling with and covering kids with kisses). 

Ross and I then assisted with taking The Board members on a tour of the campus. Ross of course was on his best Guide Dog behavior, walking calmly next to me, ignoring the bustle of people around him who were now bombarding me with questions about Ross and telling me of their experiences with caring dogs.

When we entered the second residential unit, Ross stood calmly next to me in the hallway as The Board members listened patiently to the tour speech. After a few minutes, Ross turned to his right, then pulled eagerly towards the family room door. Inside sat a group of kids and staff. Ross immediately approached the children on the floor, saying "hi" to each one, and covering their hands and faces with kisses. These were kids we hadn't met before, but Ross recognized the moment. His ability to distinguish between his two jobs is amazing. For it is in this particular room that Ross has soothed many children in distress.

Like a good Guide Dog, Ross easily redirected his attention to the tour upon my command of "Let's go." He again stood quietly with the adults. As we entered the main living space of one of the units, Ross waited until the touring adults moved on, then with permission, visited with more children. These kids he knows, and they are old enough to remember to ask permission to visit with him and to wait for my OK, and Ross knows the routine as well. As they approached to visit, Ross licked them lovingly. One boy sat on the floor, and Ross stood in his lap, covering his face in slobbery kisses. 

We continued on the tour, and Ross continued to present as a model Guide Dog, waiting patiently and ignoring the distractions around him. As children he knew passed, he watched them as if a protector, ever the while maintaining focus on me. Frequently, shouts of "Hi Ross!" were heard across the campus, and occasionally a child stopped for a quick visit. With only an ounce of understanding of the work that has occurred for Ross to become the incredible dog that he is, the board members smiled as they watched Ross carefully balance his two very important jobs - presenting as if nothing less could be expected.

Birthday Ross


Ross turned 1 today! It seems just a few weeks ago when I met the oversized lump of a puppy who sat at my feet, too scared to move, at 10 weeks olds. He is still a baby at heart, but it won't be long until he enters the adult world of Guide Dog training.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bumblebee Ross

Personally, I am not typically one to advocate for dogs being dressed in clothing or costumes, and despite the fact that my puppy at the time did win the costume contest at a puppy raising Halloween party about 5 years ago, I haven't felt the need to make it a habit.

But, this year I couldn't resist! The kids get to celebrate Halloween at work, and I KNEW they would get a hit out of Ross being dressed up. I picked a costume that I thought a black Lab could pull off, and boy was he a trooper! The costume is actually a human bumblebee costume, but it worked perfectly! I attached the wings to his puppy coat, so the elastic straps wouldn't bother him. I attempted to make stripes with yellow crepe paper, but Ross kept turning around and licking his stripes, causing the crepe paper to instantly dissolve and the stripes to fall off. So, instead Ross was left with his glittery wings and bobbing antennae.

He was SO good about the costume! He frequently pouted and often looked ashamed, but put on a happy face for the kids and trotted around campus, showing off his costume to all. He managed to get his antennae off a time or two, but really didn't make much of a fuss and eventually just put himself to bed with his full costume on, antennae and all!

Community Connection

Check out the October issue of Guide Dog's Community Connection newsletter - Ross is the cover story!

The story is a summary of Ross' work as a "therapy dog" and refers to stories told in more detail in early postings of this blog. In fact, it was writing the story for the Community Connection that inspired me to start the blog. Initially, I sent an email to a puppy raising list serve with some of the stories of Ross' work, as I wanted to share them with others. After sending the email, I thought to send it to Guide Dogs to consider for the Community Connection. I am so honored that they included the story, and even more honored that it made the front page!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Drill

Last week, I took Ross with me to respond to a page. When we entered the building, Ross' favorite girl (the one who suffers from severe psychosis) greeted him at the door of the family room. She immediately came up to Ross and began petting him, and firmly stated, "My dog!" Ross laid down on the floor, and she sat and petted him calmly. At one point, she laid down on the floor with him, closely inspecting his ears (she is fascinated with all of the folds inside his ears and requires reminders to be gentle as she pokes inquisitively) and cuddling with him. Later, she sat down, and Ross laid his head in her lap. She gently stroked his head, and appeared to be falling asleep. Another staff member commented on this, and she responded by yelling and swearing at him nonsensically. Ross just sat there, with his head in her lap, not minding her yelling. She then pretended like she was crying, only we didn't realize she was crying. Ross lifted his head, and looked at her with concern. When the staff member asked her why she was crying, she stared at him with wide eyes and cackled that she wasn't crying. After she settled back down, Ross laid back down and started snoring, his eyes still wide open, as she gently stroked his head some more.

Needing to go to a meeting, I cued her to tell Ross "goodbye" and told her we would be back to visit later. Ross looked at me with frustration as he was just getting ready to nap, but like a good Guide Dog puppy, popped right up and off we went.

About a half hour later, we reentered the building for another meeting. Shortly after entering the building, the fire alarm went off. Ross' girl was now hanging out with a different staff member in the family room. The staff member asked what we should do, as the girl tends to bolt towards the street when outside the building, and requires a great deal of supervision. I directed two staff to walk her out, giving directions to follow Ross, as this works really well to get her to cooperatively go where we need her to. As we walked out the building, she calmly followed Ross, staff on each side, Ross and me in the lead. As we walked away from the building, Ross lagged on the leash, waiting for her and continuously looking behind him to make sure she was following. He was very concerned about ensuring her safety, never phased by the high pitched sound of the fire alarm, only by a sense that she needed someone to watch over her. As we sat down on a bench outside, Ross again laid his head in her lap, and she gently stroked it as we waited to reenter the building. Upon the "all clear" we headed back inside, Ross again leading. This time he didn't lag. He confidently led her back into the building and said goodbye at the family room door, where he knew she was safe.

A Hard Day's Work

Ross rests up on his new bed between "therapy" sessions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Watch Dog

Today was a beautiful sunny fall day. When I received the page that one of Ross' kids was in a restraint, I woke him from his nap, put his Halti on, and took him to do his magic. The boy was having a very difficult time calming down and being safe around other people, so staff assisted him to the yard, where he could run around and get out his frustration without hurting anyone. We supervised from the other side of the fence, waiting for him to be ready for us to come talk with him. As I gathered information from staff about what was going on, Ross sat at the gate, watching the boy, patiently waiting until the time was right.

As other kids walked by, during school recess, family visits, or crossing campus to go to appointments, they shouted "Hello!" to Ross. I looked and waved, but Ross sat, carefully watching his kid. A couple of kids calmly approached us and politely asked to pet Ross. Ross continued to sit, acknowledging his visitors with a rub of the Halti and a kiss on the face, politely saying "hello." When the kids moved on to continue with their activities, Ross remained sitting, watching his kid in the yard.

When the child in the yard calmed and sat down, I told him that Ross was waiting to visit him. For many minutes he didn't respond. After a while, he shook his head that he wasn't ready for anyone to come in. Finally, he said, "Ross and his owner can come in." As we approached him, sitting on the patio with his back to the door, I remembered the last time Ross smothered his face with kisses and his ambivalence to Ross' demonstration of affection. I asked him if he would like me to put Ross in a down so that he wouldn't lick his face, and the boy nodded "yes." I moved Ross into position next to the boy and told him to down. Like a good Guide Dog puppy, Ross obeyed. Then, faster than I could catch him, Ross popped up and gave the boy one good lick up his face, wiping the tears away. The boy turned his face away, and I caught a glimpse of the smile he was trying hard to hide.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

Ross has had schedule "pet therapy" sessions with a boy at work for 3 weeks now. The first session, Ross appeared pretty disinterested, and cuddled up with me instead. The boy was a good sport about it, but really wanted Ross to cuddle with him. The second session, Ross was a little more interested, and sat next to the boy while watching the ants crawl around the brick in the courtyard. It was strange, as Ross is typically so drawn to the kids. This boy is very sweet, and he loves animals, there was nothing to indicate Ross wouldn't be just as excited to see him as all of the other kids. The only thing I could think of is that he doesn't seem to NEED Ross as much as many of the other kids do...

Today was our third session. When the boy came out of his room and sat down, Ross immediately jumped in his lap and covered his face with kisses. The boy laughed hysterically, paralyzed under Ross' wet tongue as Ross sat on him, pinning him in place. I though, "Finally!" as I watched with a grin. Third time's a charm, I guess :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Polite Request

Today I received a message from the therapist of one of Ross' biggest fans. The boy's parents were unable to attend his visit due to an accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the boy was naturally upset and anxious. Under the best of circumstances, he is anxious about his visits, and worries when his parents are even a minute late. Today, he did well managing his anxiety, and he politely requested to visit with Ross, if we had the time, because he thought Ross would help him manage his anxiety even more. I also had a picture waiting for me, which he drew.

Unfortunately, today's schedule did not permit such a visit. :( I requested staff pass a message on to him that Ross had to go to Guide Dog class, and would visit later in the week.

Paying it Forward

Last week, Ross helped a boy through the anxiety of his blood draw. Today, that boy not only completed his blood draw on his own, but he helped another child through anxiety about his blood draw!

Time In Time Out

Having just walked one boy back to school with Ross, I decided to "kill two birds with one stone," that stone being Ross, and the birds being the boys' anxiety. I was covering the Clinical Responder pager, a duty in which I respond to incidents of children in physical restraints and assess to make sure everyone is safe. As I entered the school building, I heard a very upset boy in the time out room, and was surprised to hear who it was. I didn't know the boy well, but I knew that I had never seen him upset, and that he liked Ross. As we approached, Ross moved towards the screaming, and sat in the doorway of the time out room, carefully watching with concern. I informed the boy that Ross was worried about him, and encouraged him to sit down calmly so that Ross could cuddle with him. He approached Ross and grabbed his head, standing over him, crying, and screaming. Ross sat calmly, licking the tears off the boys' face and sweat off his head. The boy moved away and continued to flail about, screaming and crying. He body slammed staff, wrapping his arms around them, virtually demanding hugs. I continued to encourage him to sit so that Ross could cuddle, and Ross continued to sit and watch the boy in concern. He moved back to Ross, again grabbing his head, and began to pet him. He moved away, and came back again. Continuing to cry and scream intermittently. Ross waited patiently as the boy eventually calmed enough to walk to the back of the room and sit down. Ross and I followed, and I directed Ross to lay down. Ross stepped into the boys' lap, and flopped his body down, attempting to cuddle in his lap. Only problem was that only his head and shoulder fit, the rest of his body laid on the floor. As I explained that Ross thought he was still a small puppy who fit in laps, the boy gently stroked Ross' coat, and allowed Ross to lick the rest of the tears off his face. He sat and stroked Ross, talking to staff about what upset him, and problem solving how to prevent it in the future. Ross laid motionless in his lap until the boy was ready to go back to class, absorbing the tears and worries.

The Most Important Member of the Meeting

Last week, one of the kids at work had a screening for possible foster home placements. About 20 adults were at the meeting, only 4 of whom the child knew (his family, therapist, and me). As we went around and did introductions, he leaned back in his chair, looked down the room, and said, "I know you! Where's the dog?" I asked him if he wanted Ross to join us, and he said "yes" with an added silent "duh." After asking if anyone else in the room objected to "the dog" being present, I went to my office and brought Ross back. I took him over to where the boy was sitting, put him in a down stay, and had the boy hold the leash. Ross laid quietly at his feet throughout the meeting.

When it was time to take the boy back to school, he wanted to walk Ross. I walked next to him and directed him how to handle Ross. As we left, I instructed, "Tell him 'Ross, let's go!'" All the way down to school, the boy kept commanding "Roscoe!"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Use Crying Over Spilled Water

There is a girl at work who is very special to Ross, and to whom Ross is very special (see Ross' Stunt Double). As an adolescent, she suffers from extreme psychosis and is virtually nonverbal. When she does speak, it is frequently incomprehensible. She is often agitated by her internal stimuli, and it can be difficult to calm her with all of the tricks up our professional sleeves. The one consistent magic trick: Ross! She loves Ross, follows directions about treating him nicely, and is so soothed by him, that she frequently falls asleep while cuddling with and petting him.

Today's visit started off as usual: Ross made a bee-line straight for her. She immediately approached him and began to pet him gently. She then tried to pick him up (which she used to be able to do when he wasn't quite so big), but set him down when reminded that he had grown and was too big to be picked up. When asked if she wanted him to sit with her, she replied, "yes." And so, she sat down and Ross curled around her, resting his head next to her lap. She silently pet him and sipped on a cup of ice water. I watched as she ignored staff as they asked her questions, dropped her head, and closed her eyes, while cuddling with Ross' head in her lap (which she made a point of positioning there).

As she napped with Ross in her lap on my left, I began talking to another girl, sitting on my right side. As I asked the girl on my right why she was pouring water on the floor, I saw something out of the corner of my left eye: the girl on my left (who had just been asleep) was pouring her water on Ross' head! Ross bounced up, startled by the sudden drench of water all over his head. We got up, and moved to another area. The girl who had been on my right moved with us, and asked to cuddle with Ross. Ross cuddled up with her as staff got a towel for us. She then helped me dry Ross' head, and he quickly settled into her lap as if nothing had happened. The first girl then came over and started petting Ross again. He accepted her without issue.

It's unclear whether she poured the water on him on purpose, but what was clear was how resilient and forgiving Ross is. I have no doubts that he will be just as happy to see her next time, but I might advise that the water be elsewhere...

The Blood Draw

Due to the side effects of some of the medications that our kids at work take, a number of the kids have to have regular blood draws to check how the meds are affecting their organs and such (forgive me for the lack of clarity - I'm not a medical doctor). Last week, I heard that the boy who Ross consoled when he didn't get to go to his foster home refused his blood draw, as he was anxious about it. Knowing how well he responds to Ross' presence, I made a plan with the psychiatrist and nurse to bring Ross in today to try the blood draw again. Ross and I waited in the family room, and Ross sat calmly next to me. As soon as the boy came in the room, Ross immediately got up and wrapped himself around the boy, laying next to him. The boy calmly pet Ross to sleep, and Ross began snoring quietly. When the nurse arrived, I tried to make a game plan with the boy: I informed him that I don't like blood draws either (an understatement), and that I find that if I focus on something else it helps me get through it. I asked the boy, "What part of Ross should we focus on? Should we pet his ears?" The boy started to pet Ross' ear while the nurse prepped his arm. He then became fascinated by the fact that his vein was sticking out, and watched in fascination as the nurse inserted the needle. I, on the other hand, immediately shifted my focus back to Ross until the needle was gone! Having Ross present to calm the boy before the procedure clearly did the trick, but I think Ross was there to help ME more than anyone during the blood draw!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Can't Help But Laugh

After Ross' late afternoon potty break, we were headed back to the office when we passed a boy and a staff member sitting out in the courtyard. The boy yelled across the courtyard at me, "Can you train him to bite someone?" I answered, "no." He then yelled, "Can you take him inside to bite ____?" I answered, "no." As I continued to walk past him, he jumped up and sheepishly asked if he could pet Ross. I told him he couldn't visit Ross if he was going to talk about him biting people. As he promised he wouldn't, Ross stopped as if to say he needed to visit. The boy knelt down and pet Ross. Before I knew it, he was sitting on the ground, his back to the bench he had been sitting on with staff, and Ross was licking every part of his face. He laughed, and Ross licked more. Ross licked his nose, his mouth, his eyes, his ears. The boy laughed hysterically and encouraged more. Finally, he was able to laugh out, "that's enough," and I gave a gentle tug on Ross' collar to back him off. Ross stepped back, and the boy continued to pet Ross. As he loved Ross up some more, Ross stepped up in his lap, sat down, and covered his face in more kisses. As the boy continued to laugh, the staff member commented that Ross came by at a good time...

Ross laid down in the boys' lap, and rolled over on his side, soaking up the love. As I commented to the boy that Ross and I needed to get back to work, and he needed to eat his dinner that was waiting for him, Ross looked up at me as if to say, "Speak for yourself, I am working. This is my job."

Lunch in the Courtyard

Today was a beautiful summer day - with a high near 90 degrees, despite the fact that it is actually autumn now. With the great weather, many of the kids ate lunch outside today. As we passed by the kids, headed back to the office to eat at my desk, one of Ross' biggest fans asked to say "hi" to him. We stopped to visit, and as that child sat and loved up Ross, more kids kept asking to say "hi." They did a great job waiting their turns, and not totally hogging Ross so that other kids could visit him too :) One boy, who has only visited Ross once before, forgot to ask his turn. Staff, and the other kids, reminded him. He then stood off to the side, patiently waiting. When it was his turn, Ross (now laying down) rolled onto his side. The boy laid down on the courtyard patio, facing Ross, in nearly the same position Ross was in, legs stretched out on the warm concrete. As the boy pet Ross, Ross reached out and put his paw on the boy's arm. The boy, in return, reached out and scratched Ross' shoulder. There they lay, two boys on the patio, arm-in-arm, gazing peacefully at each other under the shade of the flowering plum.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thank You Note

Today I received an email from a staff member, sent for the boy who Ross visited in the school hallway yesterday. It read:

(Child) would like to thank you and the black Lab from yesterday. Later that evening he said that the dog really helped him get out of his funk and work on his goals.


P.S. He also said that you were; ‘pretty cool too’

Thursday, September 25, 2008

One of Ross' Biggest Fans & the Miracle Intervention

Shortly after Ross first started going to work as a "therapy dog," I had an idea. It was a stretch, but an idea. There was a boy at work who had a history of animal abuse towards small animals (but not large animals). The boy had seen Ross and was really interested in him, and had asked if he could have pet therapy too. After discussing with his team, we agreed that it was worth a shot, as he would always be closely supervised and was motivated for the time with Ross. My schedule limited me from scheduled appointments with him, but instead he got to visit Ross when we walked by during activity times or I stopped by the unit. From the first interaction, he was very good with Ross! He was calm and followed directions, and talked about how much he loves dogs. It didn't take long for him to talk about how much he loved Ross! He would sit on the floor, petting and cuddling Ross, smiling from ear to ear, and laughing as Ross licked his face.

The same day that Ross helped the boy who didn't get to go to his foster home (see "A Little More Bearable"), Ross was a miracle intervention for this boy! As I was outside the building speaking with the other boy's DHS caseworker, I heard screaming from inside the building. After about 10 minutes, the screaming had not stopped. I excused myself to check on the situation. When I walked inside, I saw four male staff standing around the boy, providing him with a fair amount of personal space, while trying to verbally calm him down. The boy was standing at the end of the hallway, screaming and crying. His eyes were wide, and he looked like a cornered animal. The staff members tried hard to give him space and talk to him calmly, but the boy was in flight mode, with no where to run. I took the chance to try a new approach. I stepped in front of the men and approached the boy. I knew he trusted me because I was Ross' mom. As I approached him, he began to mumble, but continued to be too upset to think clearly. He thrust his head into the wall, leaving a hole, then began to pace, clawing aggressively at his own eyes. I continued to speak to him softly, and asked him if he would feel better if he got to visit with Ross. At the sound of Ross' name, his body began to relax immediately. He paused, and mumbled, "I love Ross." I reminded him that he needed to be safe to visit Ross. He continued to calm, drank the cup of water one of the male staff had offered him quite some time before, and sat down and talked to me about why he was upset. I informed him that I had many meetings that afternoon, and it would be a number of hours before Ross could come visit, but that I needed him to be safe the whole time. He agreed that he could do this, and developed a plan with staff to stay safe while he waited for Ross' visit. As he walked back to the unit with staff, I knew that I hadn't saved the day - Ross had, even though he wasn't there. Just the mere thought of Ross was enough to make him feel better.

As I promised (and after Ross helped save the day with the other boy), we went to visit this boy on the unit that evening. He had calmly been waiting for me for many hours. As I entered the unit, I heard staff telling him that I had probably gone home for the day. He hadn't forgotten. And neither had I. I entered the unit with Ross, and the boy came over, smiling. He proudly told me about how he had been safe all afternoon, and had used his skills to stay calm and safe. As usual, he sat on the floor, cuddling with Ross, petting him, and cooing, "I love Ross."

Ross Goes to School

Today, I received a page at 11:45am that one of Ross' biggest fans was in a physical restraint. Normally, when I receive such a page, it is one of my job duties to check on the child to make sure that staff are performing the restraint correctly, that the child is not hurt, and that the restraint was necessary to ensure safety to the child and/or others. But when I heard who it was today, I had another plan (in addition to the regular plan). I woke Ross from his nap (snoring and dreaming), and we headed down to the school building where the child was. I walked directly to the time out room, where I heard the child screaming, and saw staff restraining him (correctly and safely). I calmly told him that he had a visitor, but he needed to be safe. Staff turned so that the boy could see Ross sitting in the doorway. I heard a faint "Ross" and the boy began to cry a little. He quickly calmed, and staff released him from the restraint. He sat down as staff had asked him to, and I walked Ross over to him. Ross immediately crawled in his lap and began to lick the tears off his face. The boy cooed about how much he loves Ross, while I checked in with the staff about the incident. Within seconds, the boy was smiling and laughing as Ross continued to lick his face and hands. His arms were wrapped tightly around Ross.

After a few minutes, the boy was calm enough to walk back to the unit with staff for lunch. As I prepared to leave as well, I saw another one of Ross' fans sitting in the hallway. His head was down, and he looked sad. He did not acknowledge either of the two staff in the hallway with him. I asked him if he wanted to say "hi" to Ross before we left the school building, and he quietly said, "Yes." I walked Ross over to him, and Ross immediately laid down in front of him. He quietly pet Ross and answered some of my questions, but continued to refuse to acknowledge the other staff. As we hung out in the hallway, the teachers started to come out of their classrooms and admire Ross and ask questions about his Guide Dog training. At one point, Ross sat up, put his paw on the child's lap, and gave him a big kiss on the face. The boy laughed, temporarily forgetting that he was upset.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ross Goes to Recess

On Tuesday, a couple of the kids had asked me when Ross could come to visit. I told them that I would try to bring him by later in the afternoon. It turned out to be a very busy day, and I had to leave without having a chance to take Ross to visit. On Wednesday, I had the same great intentions, with the same disappointing result. On Thursday, Ross and I were at our other campus. So, today (Friday) I was on the same unit, and one of the kids asked when Ross was going to come visit. I told him that I was going to try to bring him by this afternoon. He replied, "You said that the other day." In turn, I replied, "You're right, and I'm still trying." :) Darn smart kids keeping track!

So, I made a plan with the kids and staff that if they did well at dinner, Ross would join them down on the playground afterwards. One girl wanted to know if he could chase them, when I told her he wasn't allowed to play chase, she asked if he could climb on the play set with them. Of course, I told her that he wasn't allowed to do that either.

Keeping my end of the deal this time, I got down to the playground just in time! The kids were all playing a game, but came running when they saw Ross had arrived. I put him in a sit in the grass, and they huddled around him, all trying to hug and pet him at the same time. Ross started licking their faces, and the next thing I knew, there were 5 heads surrounding his, laughing as he licked their faces and hair. The boy who kept track of Ross' lack of visits loves it when Ross licks the back of his head, resulting in a hair style resembling bed head. Ross laid in the grass with the mob of happy kids until it was time for them to go back to the unit. We walked back with them, where they chorused goodbyes to Ross as we headed back to my office. It was a great end to an otherwise stressful week!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ross' New Office

Today, we moved offices. Ross and I had a very small office to ourselves, but now we share a larger office with a coworker. Fortunately, he's a dog person :) Fortunately, he doesn't mind that I have so much stuff it takes up every spot in the office, leaving only his desk for him. Or, he minds, but he kindly keeps it to himself :) But, he gets to share an office with an awesome dog, so who can complain?!

During the moving process, I had given Ross a Nylabone to chew on while I was at a meeting. While I was at the meeting, the maintenance man thought Ross didn't have any toys, so he took one of my therapy puppets out and gave it to Ross. I wondered how that puppet had jumped out of its box onto the floor by Ross' bed! Fortunately, it appeared that Ross never touched the puppet :) What a good Guide Dog puppy!

Ross and the CEO

At the end of last week, I had taken Ross out for a potty break at work. We have a couple of usual spots, out of the way of most people's view, and far from any place that they children will play. As Ross was doing his potty circle, an employee, two men in suits, and the CEO walked around the corner on a path that is rarely used. The employee requested to say "hi" to Ross. Fortunately, he had not started to potty yet! As she pet Ross, the others gently approached him and said "hi" as well. Then, the CEO requested that I bring Ross to a board meeting to tell the board about all the great work Ross is doing with the kids! I assured him that we would be delighted to attend any meeting he would like us to!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little More Bearable

A few weeks ago, there was a child at work who was supposed to discharge to a therapeutic foster home. He was very excited about it, and when the day came, was literally all packed up and ready to go, with his shoes and jacket on, bags at his side, and discharge gift in his hand. For multiple complicated reasons, during this moment, it was decided that he would not be leaving that day after all. In fact, we weren't sure if he was going to leave any time soon. Understandably, we knew that this was going to break his heart, and I had to tell him...

I managed to buy some time while we worked out a few details, but the time came when I had to tell him he wasn't leaving that day, and I wasn't sure when he would be leaving. How do you tell a child that he can't leave residential treatment after all, because the adults messed up? Of course, there were appropriate clinical reasons that he was not leaving, but for a child who has been told that he gets to go, it doesn't make sense, and it's not fair. Nothing I could say was going to make it OK, or even better.

I had planned to break the news to him after Ross had a visit with another child. When I walked onto the unit to visit the other child, the child who wasn't leaving was sitting in the hall, talking with a staff member. When he saw me walk by with Ross, he jumped up and ran towards us, excitedly pleading, "Can I pet the dog?!"

I asked him to please sit down quietly, so that Ross could come over to visit him. He quickly sat back down and waited anxiously for us to walk the 10 feet back to him. Ross approached, and with permission climbed into the child's lap. Ross laid his head in the child's lap, and licked his hands and face. The boy petted Ross, while examining him and his equipment. I showed him the tatoos in his ears, and he noticed that the tatoo had the same letters and numbers as the ID plate on his collar. He tried to tickle Ross' feet, and was amazed at how Ross laid there perfectly still, not at all bothered by the tickling. As he examined his feet, I showed him Ross' dew claw and explained how it is his "thumb."

While he was petting Ross, I broke the news to him. I informed him that the adults still had to figure some things out, and that we would let him know when we had more information, but for now, he was staying. I told him that I understood that he was angry, and that I would have been too.

As I tried my hardest to say anything reassuring that I could, he interrupted me to calmly state, "Ross makes me feel relaxed." I knew then that Ross had just saved the day! The child's calm demeanor had nothing to do with my attempts to break the news softly, it had everything to do with Ross' gentle touch. (So much for those 10 years of higher education...)

A few days later, we had a meeting to decide this child's treatment plan. It was decided that he would stay, and enter a new program. He was anxiously awaiting the decision that the adults were making about his life. We decided that we would tell him as a group, including two different therapists, his father, and care coordinator. We also decided that Ross should be there, hopefully to save the day once again.

The rest of the group arrived to meet with him before I got there with Ross. They had started to tell him, and he got up and left the room. As I entered the building, he was on his way out of the room. I told him that Ross was there to visit with him, and without any hesitation, he turned around and went back in the room with the group. He sat down, and Ross cuddled up next to him, laying his head in his lap, as if to say, "I know you hurt." The boy sat and listened to the adults as they told him he had to stay and work on his behavior some more. He calmly sat and stroked Ross, and made no more attempts to leave.

A few days ago, a couple of professionals came to interview this child for his new program. Not usually being the one to make these arrangements, I forgot to prepare him for the visitors. Once they arrived, I had to go get him from school. I knew that he would not want to go talk to strangers, so I took Ross with me. The boy was outside with staff, as he had been having a difficult day at school. When he saw us, he excitedly asked if Ross was there for him. I informed him that he had some visitors, and that Ross came to take him to the visitors. Without looking back at the staff, he immediately began walking with me. Although we were not part of the meeting, we stuck around for a while so that Ross could ease him into the interview. Ross cuddled with him, and after a few minutes began to snore loudly (he sometimes does this even while awake). I took the snoring as an opportunity to excuse myself and Ross, telling the child that Ross needed to go back to the office for his nap. He was compliant with us leaving. I later found out that he basically quit talking after Ross left the room.

The other day, the psychiatrist and I had to interview this boy for the new program that he was entering. He has a history of yelling and swearing at the psychiatrist who was part of the interview. I requested to bring Ross, and he was gladly welcomed. Staff brought the child to the office, and he was very resistant to being there. I informed him that Ross came to visit him while we ask him some questions, and he compliantly followed Ross into the office. They resumed their usual position: child sitting, dog's head in his lap. The boy was very quiet, and avoided answering questions as much as possible. He spent the entire time looking at Ross as he gently stroked his soft black fur, sometimes mumbling answers so quietly I could not hear them. Ignoring the psychiatrist's questions, he whispered and signaled to me, "Are his eyes closed?" After a very short interview, instead of leaving the room, he moved out from under Ross and kneeled in front of him, trying to tickle his feet. I had him show the psychiatrist Ross' tattoo and tell him about his dew claws (or "thumbs"). The boy perked up immediately. He started to make eye contact, and his voice was suddenly audible. He told the psychiatrist all about Ross.

First thing the next morning, before either Ross or I were even really awake, he asked when he could see Ross :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ross Meets his Stunt Double

I waited anxiously for Ross' stunt double to arrive in the mail. I had searched the internet high and low to find JUST the right dog - one that was life-size, realistic, and looked just like Ross, and I found him! I was so excited!

When he finally arrived, I tore the large box open like a child at Christmas! Under a wad of packing paper, I found a large stuffed dog sealed in a large plastic bag. As I started to tear the bag open and pull him out, I noticed Ross watching from the doorway. Watching in horror as I pulled a dog out of a bag, out of a box! Watching in horror as the dog stood staring intently at him, not moving a muscle! Ross growled, barked, and scurried away. He slowly stalked back, only to retreat again! He was sure that the dog was real! (Wow, I did find a good one!)

I coaxed Ross closer, using my confident "there's nothing to be afraid of" voice, while gently petting the stunt double. Ross gradually inched closer, staying back on his hocks for a quick retreat. Eventually, he inched his way close enough to sniff the dog. Evidently he smelled OK, because Ross decided that the stunt double wasn't going to attack, but he must not have smelled stuffed...

I took the stunt double to work, where I sat him outside my office while he waited to be presented to his child, as my office is way too small for two large dogs (even if one is stuffed). I spent the day mostly behind a closed door, frequently overhearing gasps, screams, and comments about how people thought the dog was real! (Wow, I did find a good one!) I must admit, it was rather amusing :)

The next day, I drove to our other campus. During a call later in the day, I found that people had continued to be startled by the stunt double in the hallway, and the medical director kindly asked that I put him somewhere else until he was to be delivered to his child. The following day, I found him in a meeting room, where he had evidently been startling people as well :)

Despite many professionals being scared by a stuffed dog, Ross decided that his stunt double wasn't so bad after all, and might actually be his friend. Ross began to lay in the doorway of my office, gazing at his friend just outside the door. When he was off duty in the evening, he decided that it would be a great opportunity to play with his friend, while mom continued to work for free after 5:00. Ross got his tug ring for his stunt double. He sniffed his stunt double in the rear, and invited him to play, prancing around him with his tug ring. Ross pawed at his friend, and nudged him with the ring, continuing the invitation. Initially, his friend ignored him, just as his brothers do at home, but after a couple of minutes, his friend actually grabbed the tug ring as he lay on the floor (Ross accidently looped the ring over the stunt double's muzzle after knocking him to the ground). Ross was SO excited! His new friend wanted to play! He pulled hard, and low and behold, he won the game of tug it pulled loose from his friend's mouth! Ross was so proud of himself, and he continued to prance around his friend, nudging and poking him to play some more.

I was actually sad to take the stunt double to his child - I knew Ross would miss his friend (whom he still had not figured out wasn't real), and I would miss Ross' sweet naivety as he smelled his stuffed cotton rear and poked him to play :)

Ross' Stunt Double

One of Ross' first "pet therapy" clients was a child who suffers from psychosis. Her functioning is very low, and there are few activities that she can effectively participate in throughout the day. While she appears to comprehend much of what she hears, her speech is very difficult to comprehend, and her behavior appears very impulsive. She reportedly loved her family dog, so we decided to give it a shot and see how she would respond to Ross.

Initially, I wasn't sure how effective it would be for her, or how positive it would be for Ross. During her initial session, she picked Ross up completely off the ground, and plopped him in her lap, sometimes poking and pulling at him. What I was amazed by was Ross' response. He held completely still - not scared still, but calm still. He flopped in her arms as she fumbled to get him in her lap, he allowed her to mold him like a clay figure as she got him in just the right position, and he ignored her as she poked and prodded. It was truly incredible! I knew then that Ross had a special sense for kids with needs, and if any dog could serve these kids, he was the one!

What was even  more amazing is the effect that Ross has had on this child. Despite her disorganized behavior the rest of the day, she is a completely different child in Ross' presence. She quickly learned to follow directions to be more gentle with him, responding to reminders about him needing to be "safe" or to not "hurt" him. Clearly, she cares about him, even if she doesn't have the words to tell anyone. When she is having a difficult time focusing, she responds to requests to show Ross something, or for Ross to walk her back to where she needs to be. When Ross is around, she more frequently answers questions with logical responses, typically one word, but comprehensible and calm. The shift in her behavioral presentation and cognitive functioning is incredible. But what leaves me in awe more than anything else, are the many moments when she has cuddled up with him, stroked his fur gently, and fallen asleep with him in her lap. The moments are short, but they are some of the only moments of peace in her otherwise chaotic and confusing life.

It is because of Ross' incredible affect on this child's life, that he has been welcomed back to the office on a daily basis.

Despite Ross' leisurely work schedule, mine is not quite so flexible. So, we purchased a stunt double for this child to cuddle with when Ross is not available. We do not pretend that the life-size, real looking, dog is Ross or any other breathing creature. He's just a reminder that Ross is around for her, and will be back soon.

A Day in the Moonlighting Life of a Guide Dog Puppy

April 28, 2008: Ross' first day at the office. In anticipation, I had already prepared my tiny office with a dog bed, tie down, water bowl, and basket of supplies including Febreeze, a brush, towels, wash cloths, poop bags, kibble bag, and toys. 

At just 5 1/2 months old, Ross was a perfect office dog from Day 1. He started his day off on the dog bed, where he laid for about 8 or more hours, occasionally getting up to stretch out on the carpet or say "hi" to a visitor stopped by. He never made a peep, had an accident, or bothered anyone. People had to stop by and look around my file cabinet to know he was there.

Now, at 9 1/2 months, his days don't look much different. We arrive in the office, I take his leash off, and he goes directly to his bed, where he sleeps for the next 8+ hours. I wake him to visit kids, and visitors wake him to say "hi" in the office. Sometimes he opens his eyes for them. When visitors come in for appointments, he sometimes gives them a sniff and flops at their feet, not minding the fact that they can't move their chair or get up without having to step over him. He doesn't care. From 9-5 it's sleep time. It's a good thing he works for free - or he would definitely get fired for sleeping on the job!

Recently, Ross has decided that the work day ends at 5:00pm sharp. I'm not sure why - it has never ended at 5:00. Sometimes 6:00 if we're lucky, often closer to 7:00, even 8:00, 9:00, or later. That's the joy of a salary middle management job in a non-profit organization. The work day ends when the work is done, which it never is. If you're human, you eventually give up and go home, hoping you'll have time to finish it tomorrow. If you're a Guide Dog puppy, you have brothers to go home and play with, and it's important! After all, no one is paying either of you to stick around past 5:00!

And so, 5:00 is met with a nudge, a dance, and more frequently these days - a "talk." All of this is met with a tie-down. Which, in turn, receives a glare, or terribly sad puppy eyes that actually appear to have tears coming from them (the glare is for me, the sad puppy eyes are for any sap that might stop by), but shortly thereafter - a snooze. More than once Ross' sleep time has been made evident by the loud snoring apparently coming from the file cabinet.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Puppy Who Started it All

On January 27, 2008, I received my 9th Guide Dog puppy: Ross. Ross is special for many reasons, which have become even more apparent every day. Initially, Ross was deemed special because he was in the first group of puppies at Guide Dogs for the Blind to participate in the clicker training trial. Guide Dogs has been using clicker training with dogs in formal training for a while, but up until now, had not permitted puppy raisers to utilize this training method. I was eager to participate in this trial, as my many years of graduate school in psychology convinced me of the power of positive reinforcement in shaping behaviors. Ross was one of an elite few (30 in total) to participate in this trial.

I later learned that Ross was special for another reason. Ross received his name as part of the grand prize for a fundraiser raffle at the Oregon Fall Luncheon. The winner got to name a puppy and fly to San Rafael, CA to meet the puppy that was named. Ross was named by a member of the Lake Oswego Lions Club, after a prominent and well respected Lions Club member whom had recently passed away. Ross had big shoes to fill, and a lot of people eager to watch him grow and succeed as a guide.

Along the way, I also quickly realized that Ross is very special because of his personality. He is a very "soft" or sensitive dog. He is generally calm and unsure about the world. He wants to please, but is sometimes unsure how to do so, and will choose to do nothing instead. Most of all, he really worries about doing something wrong, and punishment is devastating for him. Fortunately, this made clicker training a great technique for him, as he learned through positive reinforcement, instead of punishment. 

Along with Ross' "soft" personality, he is incredibly sweet and lovable. He sometimes lacks the confidence to explore the word on his own, and he is comforted by the presence of people, primarily me (his "mommy"). Ross is often by my side, and he loves to cuddle. Ross' personality deems him special because it lends him to be better behaved than the average puppy, even the average Guide Dog puppy. Ross is calm, quiet, and unlikely to cause any trouble. Instead, he'll loyally lay by your side and give you kisses when he gets the chance.

Another special attribute about Ross is that he has been the first of my puppies to be allowed at my work. (see Introduction) Ross' behavior at my work is critical, not just in his representation of Guide Dogs, but in paving the way for future Guide Dog puppies to be permitted, and in the level of welcoming and acceptance they receive. The pressure is on!


I work at a residential treatment facility for children with severe mental illness, and our agency has a policy that permits certified Therapy Dogs on campus. Unfortunately, my dogs aren't certified as Therapy Dogs, but I do raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

For four years, I sought permission to bring my well behaved Guide Dog puppies to work, only to be repeatedly told that only certified Therapy Dogs were permitted. I attempted to educate the powers that be as to the difference between a service dog and therapy dog, including the greater expectations, rules, and training oversight that Guide Dog puppies have over Therapy Dogs. Unfortunately, my efforts remained futile, and I had to make other arrangements for my puppies during the work day.

I was fortunate, a few months ago, to receive assistance from some colleagues in changing the policy at my agency to include service dogs in training as permitted on campus, with the same rules and expectations that Therapy Dogs would have. Upon the change in policy, I followed the policy to request permission for my Guide Dog puppy to attend work with me.

I was thrilled to initially receive permission for my puppy to attend regularly. However, after a week or two, I was informed that I was only to bring my puppy two days a week for scheduled "pet therapy" sessions. In an effort to work collaboratively with my employer, I followed their directions. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I hoped that it would just be a matter of time for them to realize just how well mannered my Guide Dog puppies are, and to embrace their presence on a daily basis. I was not alone in my disappointment - many of my colleagues were as well.

While I regard 8 of the 9 Guide Dog puppies I have raised thus far to have been excellent representatives of the high standards that Guide Dogs for the Blind has for their puppies and puppy raisers, I was especially fortunate in the timing of the policy change to be raising one of the most incredible puppies ever: a large black Lab named Ross. Ross is the ideal puppy to warm people's hearts to the presence of a dog in the work place. Especially in a therapeutic work place. 

Due to Ross' incredible presence as both a Guide Dog puppy, and "therapy dog" (I use the term loosely, as he serves as a therapy dog through the nature of my job, and he is not certified through any animal assisted therapy program), he has started making big changes at my place of employment, demonstrating the "power of the puppy" that no human can duplicate. I am pleased to report that due to Ross' incredible work, he is now permitted daily on campus, so that he can be available to the children when they need him, not necessarily when it's convenient.