Sunday , April 22, 2012 - 7:46 AM
Instead of getting a helping hand inthe workplace, Glenna Foremaster may turn to some helping paws -- or even a nose.
Service dog Misty is ever ready with a snout to push in a desk drawer. Or she may use her front paws to push automatic openers so Foremaster can easily roll through doorways in her wheelchair.
Misty, a 3-year-old Labrador retriever/golden retriever cross, is a Canine Companions for Independence dog trained to be on the job with her owner daily.
"Under," Foremaster will tell her dog as the pair arrive at "their" cubicle at the Ogden IRS Center, and Misty slips under the desk to sit on a comfy brown pillow.
If Foremaster drops something on the floor -- a pen, a folder or her cellphone, even a piece of paper -- Misty is there to pick it up or "get."
At home, Misty may pick up a piece of clothing Foremaster drops on her way to the washer, or push the basket of clean folded laundry into another room to be put away.
These Plain City residents have been a team for more than a year, after being paired in a November 2010 training class at Canine Companions for Independence in Oceanside, Calif.
Foremaster was born with spina bifida that left her legs paralyzed below the knee. She says she had never heard of dogs to assist those with disabilities until she met a co-worker who was raising a puppy from Canine Companions.
Now, this tax examiner and her service dog go everywhere together, be it shopping at the mall or eating out at restaurants, where Misty hangs out in her spot under the table.
Many times, the waitress doesn't see them come in, Foremaster says, so, "We're almost done with our meal by the time she realizes there's a service dog under there."
Foremaster is taking piano lessons and Misty goes along each week to listen, although the bag of piano music is too heavy for her to carry. But the dog can carry lightly loaded grocery sacks into the house, by holding the handle in her mouth.
At work, plenty of folks know Misty and stop to say "hi" when she and her owner amble through the halls.
"Sometimes it takes a long time to go somewhere," Foremaster quips.
Misty was a bit of a novelty on the job at first, Foremaster says -- "I didn't get any work done, I think, that first week" -- but now her co-workers take the canine in stride. Tips on how to properly interact with a service dog -- no petting without asking, no feeding -- are posted at the entrance to Foremaster's cubicle.
One misconception folks have about service dogs is that they never get play time, Foremaster says. But when Misty gets home from work, her blue "uniform" vest comes off and she has time to be a regular dog.
"She can play and she plays a lot," Foremaster says.
Foremaster says she knew having a service dog would help her with physical tasks; having Misty pick things up off the floor for her, for example, means the 37-year-old has less back pain nowadays.
But the dog lover says she didn't realize how much her tail-wagging partner would also assist her emotionally. Dealing with her pain and circumstances was often discouraging. "It was hard to get up in the morning sometimes," she admits.
Now, she explains, she is focused on feeding, grooming and caring for Misty, because, "She's counting on me, too."
After a stressful phone call with a taxpayer at work, Foremaster says she simply reaches under her desk to pet Misty and calms down.
Bad days still happen on occasion, Foremaster adds, but, "I feel like I get through that bad day better than I ever have."
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