Sunday, September 7, 2008


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.

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