A 2-year-old golden retriever named Rosalie recently joined the team at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a full-time employee. Her job as a facility dog is to comfort and care for the staff.
She joins two other trained service dogs, Puggle and Huckleberry, who focus on helping children and their families. All three dogs were trained at Canine Assistants and are part of St. Jude’s Paws at Play program.
In 2019, the hospital started Paws At Play, a program that “aims to distract patients from their illness, symptoms, pain and anxiety.”
Janet Sellers, Staff Resilience Center manager, always thought a support dog would be beneficial to employees. After an extra tough last year, it was time to make the idea a reality.
The center is a place for staff to go to “focus on caring for themselves by finding ways to deal with stress, burnout and compassion fatigue,” wrote the hospital.
Sellers worked with Paws at Play to find a facility dog just for staff to lift their spirits when times are rough. Rosalie is that and so much more.
“They said her gift is loving people and being loved by them,” Sellers was told by the training facility, making her the perfect dog for the staff.
Her name has a special meaning as well. Rosalie was the name of a young woman who received a dog from the training center but has since passed away.
“In the Resilience Center, we talk about the meaning in our work and our connection to the mission. It’s even more special that Rosalie has a legacy and a meaning in the work that she does,” Sellers said.
Rosalie is hard at work helping stressed, exhausted, and emotionally drained employees feel better. She makes them laugh, cry, or simply listens as they talk about their day.
But even though she is in high demand, she still gets daily lunch breaks and has time to play with toys and the other dogs.
Each service dog is paired with a trained handler, who they also live with.
Kimberly Russell, a St. Jude chaplain since 2013, will work as Rosalie’s handler and new mom. The two will share an office but have individual workspaces. Staff members will have scheduled meetings with Rosalie after a loss of a patient or colleague and will soon be able to request appointments.
Rosalie will interact with all staff by making rounds to clinical research and administrative areas.
Russell is excited for her new role and to work alongside Rosalie to care for the staff. “A dog can create a safe space quickly and help people to open up a bit easier,” said Russell. “You’re able to be a little more vulnerable without feeling vulnerable and maybe able to start talking about some of the things that might be more difficult to discuss.”
The friendly and sweet dog is a welcomed and much-needed addition to the team. “She’s going to be a bright light at St. Jude,” added Sellers.
Watch as Rosalie goes through orientation with the help of her two furry co-workers and their handlers in the video below.
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