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."