As we walked outside, we were greeted individually by a group of kids playing ball. Ross remained focused, only interacting when the children approached him, and completely ignoring the ball. We headed to the lower part of the yard, where the boy I was going to check-in with was calming. We had never met this boy before. He watched with curiosity as a woman and a dog approached him. As I introduced us, the boy instantly took interest, placing his hand through the fence for Ross to lick. He asked me questions about Ross, and I asked him questions about his unsafe behavior. He didn't seem worried about having to talk to a stranger about his negative behavior, it just came out as he interacted with Ross.
While in the yard, a little boy came to visit Ross. He was so excited to see Ross, exclaiming his name, wrapping him in hugs, and stroking his coat as Ross covered his face in kisses.
We then went back inside to check-in with more kids. As we walked back through the state hospital unit, Ross was greeted by more of his fans. Initially, just a child or two came to see him. They sat on the floor with him, giggling as he licked the food spills off their clothes and hands and covered their faces with kisses. As the other children realized Ross was there, they too joined us, and soon more children came in from outside, excited to find Ross inside. Before I knew it, a group of approximately 10 children, the most mentally ill children in the state, were sitting in a circle on the floor, side by side, loving Ross, who laid in the middle and loved them back. The girl who suffers from extreme psychosis spoke to him in a comprehensible manner. The other children reminded her to pet him nicely when she began to pull on his collar and poke his ears. They spoke to her in a calm and supportive manner, showing her how to pet him. Children who don't get along sat next to each other, closer than they would otherwise be allowed, due to their aggressive tendencies. They shared, they laughed together, and they helped each other out. It was a moment that I will never forget: the epitome of the difference Ross has made with these children - children who are there because humans have not been able to help them enough in the past.
As we walked onto the little kids' unit, we were greeted by a young boy who was flipping furniture. This boy suffers from Tourette's - he has frequent facial tics and swears uncontrollably. When we had entered the building earlier, I could hear his explicit ranting from the hallway. But, as soon as he saw us, he dropped the large chair he was flipping, and came over to greet Ross. I asked him if he wanted to visit with Ross, and suggested we move to another space. He wanted to show us how he could flip the chairs, but I let him know that he could only visit with Ross if he was being safe, and flipping chairs wasn't safe for Ross. The boy calmly suggested we move to another area away from the chairs. He then sat down on the floor with Ross, and stroked him gently. He was calm and polite, followed directions, and only swore once.
Ross then took turns visiting with the other young children on the unit. One of the girls had his stunt double in her room, and brought it out to visit with him. Ross was SO excited to see his friend! He licked his nose, nuzzled his ears, and nudged him gently, encouraging him to play. He hadn't forgotten his life-sized stuffed friend!
Ross and I then went back outside to check on a child in a restraint. As we entered the yard, staff saw Ross and released the boy. He instantly walked away from the staff he had been targeting with aggression, and approached Ross. I reminded him that he needed to be calm and safe to visit with Ross. The boy instantly agreed to be safe, and sat down on the patio to prove it. He visited with Ross briefly, then became agitated again about staff and acted as if he didn't care about Ross. As soon as Ross and I left, he began hitting staff again.
As we were getting ready to leave, the young boy in the yard was out in the hallway, blocking the door and seconds from being restrained due to his aggressive behavior. He had also been asking for Ross. As I approached the door, I peeked through the window and reminded staff that I needed him to be safe for Ross to come visit. The boy instantly started to calm, moved away from the door, and followed staff directions. Ross sat in front of him and instantly smothered his face with kisses. The boy laughed and rolled around, encouraging Ross to lick him more. Ross began licking his head, and the boy laughed about his saliva being hair gel. Soon, all of his worries were gone, and the boy said goodnight to Ross and rejoined the group on the unit.
Ross and I headed back to the office, where he ate dinner and sacked out for his evening nap, a hard year's work done.