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!"