I'm the husband of Ruby's raiser and I enjoy helping with Ruby's training, so last week I brought Ruby to visit my office. During these past few months it has been a real eye-opener for me to learn how important it is to expose service-dogs-in-training to new environments because there really is no way to create "virtual" environments to simulate the real thing. In other words, an office may not seem strange to most everyone, but when you think about it, the sights and sounds of a full-sized copy machine, the weird maze of cubicles, and the numerous offices filled with people moving here and there can be very odd if you've never experienced it. So, I got permission from my human resources manager to occasionally take Ruby to the office so that she could experience this strange environment first-hand, and so that it won't seem strange to her when she becomes a full-fledged service dog.
I loaded up with treats in my pockets, including the high-value ones, and with clicker in hand we headed in. Once in my office I made sure to settle in and start working, so that Ruby would get used to sitting near and under my desk.
Then we strolled around the office, practicing our loose-leash skills, and met a lot of people along the way. Even though it was a quiet pre-holiday week, a number of people were around and they asked me about Ruby. I made sure that they understood how important it was for them to allow her to do her work, and stay focused on me, but I had some nice conversations about how service dogs help people in the workplace.
When we returned to my office it struck me – I've been at my place of employment for 3 years and during this time I hadn't had the level of engagement with many of my co-workers that I just had on a stroll through the office with Ruby. My service-dog-in-training was doing something for me that I hadn't expected. I could see how much she will eventually help someone – not only with mobility concerns, but with so much more.
Back at the office Ruby really settled in under the desk (where she may eventually be expected to stay quietly as her partner works) and she didn't bother with people that walked by and stopped in to my office. Well...first she had a nice high value treat, that she thoroughly enjoyed:
And then she settled in...
It was truly a fun few hours at the office with Ruby. We both learned a lot, in an environment that may become very important for her some day, and we're looking forward to our next visit together at work.