Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough

Today I received notice that my, and many of my colleagues', positions were cut. Hard economic times require employee restructuring. 

As I sat in my office, worried of what the future may hold, Ross approached me with big eyes. He sat back on his haunches and gently placed his front paws on my lap. He looked at me with a knowing, caring, gaze that required no words. As I gazed back at him, telling him I knew, he climbed up into my lap, laid his upper body against mine, and gently licked my face.

When a colleague of mine, in the same situation, arrived, and sat down on the floor with Ross, Ross climbed into his lap, standing on his legs and leaning his body against my friend's chest, wiggling and refusing to move. As my friend chuckled at Ross' antics, Ross slumped into his lap, curling up and cuddling on my friend's legs, refusing to move. As my friend attempted to wiggle out from underneath Ross, Ross remained in his position, remaining loyal and present.

Just What You Need


I continue to be amazed by Ross' change in demeanor for each child he interacts with.

One very quiet, but aggressive, girl has visits with Ross on her list of coping skills to utilize when she feels herself start to become upset. When she senses it, or staff notice it, they call or page me to see if I am available to bring Ross for a visit. Ross is much more sedate with this girl than with any other child. She startles easily and reacts severely, and he must sense her need for calmness. He simply sits with her. Sometimes he will give her a kiss, but it is rare. Mostly, he just sits.

On Monday, he sat with her while we chatted. For the most part, he sat next to her, or laid on the floor nearby as we talked about his eat tattoos, lack of armpit hair, dew claws, and foot pads. She found it all very interesting, though Ross was not impressed, as he's heard it all before. At one point, Ross scooted onto her lap, sitting like a person in a chair on her kneeling legs. After a while, he slumped to the floor, and eventually laid next to her, snoring as he rested his head on her leg. 

When one of the boys came to say "hi" to him, he rolled over on his back, and licked the boy wildly - instantly changing his demeanor when the boy arrived. The boy laughed and Ross continued licking him playfully. 

When the boy left, Ross returned to his post next to the girl. Sitting, calmly, one single small kiss offered as a goodbye.

On Tuesday, we went to visit the girl again. This time, a number of other clients wanted to visit with Ross as well. Again, Ross sat quietly next to the girl, his tongue securely in his mouth. A new girl timidly approached, having never met Ross before. Ross sniffed her and sat, gazing at her calmly, offering himself if she chose. 

When the boys arrived, he rolled on his back, lavishing the belly rubs and covering their faces in kisses. When they left, he returned to the first girl, sitting quietly.

As we left the kids for the evening, Ross walked calmly past the group, in true Guide Dog fashion, ignoring every distraction present. As we neared the door, the girl who rarely speaks ran up and began stroking Ross' coat heavily. Ross is a sensitive dog, and doesn't like people approaching his head. But, when I expected him to duck and avoid her prey-like hand motions, he stood calmly, holding his head high for her. He remained motionless as she tried to pick him up and continued to pet him forcefully. When asked what she thinks of Ross, she replied, "Cute!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Update: Project Replicate Ross

With the help of many kind and generous people, I now have a very sufficient collection of Ross replicas, of various sizes, to distribute to the kids. The distribution process has already started, with stuffed Rosses being given to kids as discharge gifts, coping skills, rewards, and napping partners. With the great variety of Rosses, staff and therapists have picked out just the right dog for each child.

Thank you everyone for your support! Every stuffed dog is making a difference in the life of a child in need of a smile :)

Ross Likes Me

When responding to a page today, I checked in with a very forlorn boy. He was calm by the time I arrived, but appeared heartbreakingly sad. The boy told me about how he thinks no one likes him, and he feels lonely. He stated that he runs, hits, and kicks when he feels lonely. As we talked about his feelings and what he can do when he feels lonely, I asked him, "Who does like you?" His first response: Ross. He was able to identify why Ross likes him: he pets him, gives him kisses, and speaks nicely to him. And, he stated that I like him because he treats Ross well :) When it seemed that the whole world hates him, he knew there was at least one exception: Ross. And he was right, without a doubt. Ross licks and kisses him, cleaning him from head to toe and making him smile and laugh.

He reported that he uses his Ross replica to help him feel better at home, and that talking to Ross makes him feel better, but Ross can't talk back. His idea: write notes to Ross when he's feeling down, and have Ross write back (with my help, of course), and sign the note with his paw stamped in ink :)

Walk With Me


As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed one of the kids, an adolescent girl, wandering outside the school building. I kept a close eye on her, and soon noticed that staff were nearby. The girl circled the building, trying to stay a step ahead and out of sight of the staff who were supervising her. She startled when she heard my car door. As she turned to look at me, I called out to ask her what she was up to. Despite attempting to elude staff, she began to approach me. 

As I pretended to not be concerned about her elusive behavior, she walked to my car and asked if I had Ross with me. As I continued to speak casually with her, she walked with me to the back of my car, greeted Ross, and continued to walk with me as I went about my normal arrival routine, continuing to ask her questions about what was going on. As she stood petting Ross, she answered my questions, as if this was our normal interaction. Staff arrived, and I filled them in. The girl continued to stand with Ross, no longer concerned about getting away from staff. I invited her to walk with me as I headed towards the office, passing through the school building as it was "on the way." The girl walked next to Ross, staff within arm's reach. I continued the casual conversation about what was bothering her, and she cooperatively identified her classroom. As we stood at the door, problem-solving the situation, Ross served as a distraction, keeping the girl calm enough to continue talking and to think clearly. Without a hitch, she calmly made a plan to return to class. Ross and I parted ways, off to our office, the girl and staff checking in with the teacher.