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 :)