by Sasha Steinberg
With big brown eyes, a friendly smile, green vest, and official St. Jude badge, a one-of-a-kind employee began her first day in a one-of-a-kind pawlace.
As the newest member of the hospital’s Paws at Play program, golden retriever Rose will play an impawtent role in enhancing psychosocial support for patients and families in areas including Social Work, the St. Jude School Program, and Family Commons.
Born November 13, 2021, Rose arrived at St. Jude May 1 after graduating from training camp at Canine Assistants service dog school in Milton, Georgia, where she was carefully bred for her temperament and health.
Canine Assistants names each dog based on their litter theme at birth, which for Rose was Golden Girls. Canine Assistants matches the dog’s temperament and strengths based on each facility’s needs. Rose was specifically chosen for St. Jude because of the work she’ll be doing at the hospital.
Her handlers Nicole Byford, Kathy Clayton and Erica Sirrine, PhD, also received certified facility dog training. Byford serves as a K-12 and 7-12 teacher in the School Program, and Clayton is a social worker II in the Social Work department of which Sirrine is the director.
Sirrine said it has been a treat for her and the other handlers to interact with Rose, who loves eating peanut butter, posing for the camera and playing fetch with a squeaky ball—not all at the same time, of course. ;)
“We got to meet via Zoom with the two foster families that raised Rose, and they told us she is one of the smartest dogs they’ve ever had. One of the families even taught her Spanish,” Sirrine said. “We cried as we said goodbye because these families have loved her so well. Their faces lit up when we told them she was being placed at St. Jude. They are very proud.”
Rose is joining three other golden retrievers who have become rather pawpular among St. Jude patient families and staff. Snuggle and CC, who celebrated their one-year anniversary in April 2023, have been doing a pawsome job helping to meet clinical needs for child life and psychology intervention, and Rosalie is in her second year providing staff resilience suppawt.
“It’s super fun that Rose is from the Golden Girls-themed litter because we always call our three other St. Jude facility dogs the ‘Golden Girls,’” Sirrine said. “It is already evident that she will be an amazing addition to the Paws at Play team.”