Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Real resumés, real professions

For some valley animals, work comes before play

Express Staff Writer

Lucky visits with Blaine Manor resident Dottie Felder as manor Activities Director Michael Ayers looks on. Lucky is the manor’s therapy dog and resident inspiration, as many residents feel a special connection with the wheelchair-using pup.
Photo by David N. Seelig
Name, breed: Lucky, mutt and former stray

Employer: Blaine Manor care facility

Position: Janitor, companion, inspiration

Responsibilities: Finance Director Stephanie Jaskowski joked that Lucky's main job is to clean up after residents' meals. He also attends morning staff meetings and visits with residents.

Biography: Lucky the three-legged dog was found wandering by the Salmon Falls Reservoir in 2005. As he's aged, Lucky has begun to require the use of a specially made wheelchair to compensate for his missing leg.

Still, Jaskowski says, it doesn't affect his personality.

"Despite his being in pain a lot of time, he doesn't show it. He's just so happy to be here," she says.

In addition, she says, his disability has given the residents a sense of inspiration.

"Right now, since he's in his wheelchair, everyone is really pulling for him," Jaskowski says. "They have more of a special connection with him."

Other: "[Lucky] never gripes, he never complains and he shows up on time," Jaskowski says. "And he doesn't expect a paycheck."


Name: Lava Lake great Pyrenees and akbash (Turkish counterpart to the French great Pyrenees) dogs

Employer: Lava Lake Ranch

Position: Guard dogs

Responsibilities: Sales Manager Cheryl Bennett says the ranch's guard dogs have one purpose: to protect and preserve the ranch's 6,000 sheep.

"They're protecting day in and day out," she says. "Often we won't see it, but we've had many times when they've encountered a predator and scared it off."

Bennett says the herds encounter wolves, bears and cougars, all of which the dogs are expected to deter.

Training: Akbash and Pyrenees receive very little handling and no formal training, as they are bred to protect. Bennett says that if the dogs become too used to human attention, they will run to humans for petting and treats instead of staying with the herd.

"Most of our guard dogs won't come up to you to be petted," she says, adding that the canines are consummate professionals.

Other: The dogs wear special spiked collars to protect them from predators' teeth.


Henry the Norwegian fjord draft horse visits with Sagebrush Arena instructor Lindsey Jameson. Henry is a therapy horse with Sagebrush, and one of the few trained to accept riders who use wheelchairs, who must use an electric lift that spooks many horses.
Photo by David N. Seelig
Name: Henry, Norwegian fjord draft pony

Employer: Sagebrush Arena

Position: Therapy horse

Responsibilities: Lindsey Jameson, instructor at the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped near Hailey, says Henry is the center's most versatile horse, capable of carrying the tiniest children and the heaviest riders.

Though Henry is large and somewhat stubborn, Jameson says, he is always very careful around the most vulnerable riders, particularly one little girl.

"He just knows that she is special, and that it's his job to take care of her and make sure she stays safe."

Training: Jameson says Henry had special training to become one of the center's two horses able to accept handicapped riders from a lift. "It's a strange thing, to accept a rider from above," she says, adding that it spooks less-steady horses.

Other: "So many of our horses come with issues and it's such a symbiotic relationship," Jameson says. "This is a job for them, and it gives them a purpose."


Munchie the cat cuddles with Blaine County resident Delpha Bourne. According to Munchie’s owner and manor Finance Director Stephanie Jaskowski, the cat’s job is to take a morning census of all residents. The covers on her claws are a humane alternative to declawing and prevent accidental scratching.
Photo by David N. Seelig

Name, breed: Munchie, former alley cat

Employer: Blaine Manor care facility

Position: Census taker, companion

Responsibilities: Finance Director Stephanie Jaskowski says Munchie has a strict schedule that she sticks to every morning.

"Every day, Munchie comes to work, and I just let her go," she says. "Her first job is to go through the facility and she takes a census, and she checks back in with me."

History: Jaskowski found Munchie abandoned by the side of a road outside Picabo as a 4-week-old kitten. Munchie was so dehydrated and sick, Jaskowski says, that she couldn't leave her alone.

"I brought her to work the next day and said, 'Hey, who wants to watch over this kitten for me?'" she says.

One of the residents volunteered, and has had daytime charge of Munchie ever since.

Other: Munchie is one of those rare cats who is walked on a leash to prevent her from getting into everything and anything. She is also outfitted with claw covers to prevent her from accidentally scratching residents.


Name, breed: Rockee, Airedale terrier

Employer: Blaine County Search and Rescue

Position: Search, hopefully, rescue

Responsibilities: Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett, Rockee's owner and handler, says the Airedale's overarching priority is to hunt for human scent. Daggett says Rockee is especially good at trailing, or following a specific person's scent.

"Trailing is like what you think a bloodhound does, where he locks on to a person's scent," Daggett says. "You hand him an article [belonging to the person] and say, 'Follow that scent.'"

Training: Rockee is certified in trailing, avalanche search and area search. Certification is based on national and Blaine County standards, and must be renewed every two years.

Other: Daggett says Rockee's best moment was on a search for a missing girl near Magic Reservoir in 2009. The call for searchers went out at 11 p.m. on a bitter December night. Yaquina, a dog trained to find human remains, joined Rockee. Unfortunately, 11-year-old Sage Aragon had long before succumbed to the elements.

"It became evident that we were needed," Daggett says. "It was so cold and so windy, but he got into it and we did our job."


Name, breed: Chocko, standard poodle

Employer: Margery Friedlander

Position: Assistance dog

Responsibilities: Chocko is a mobility assistance dog, which means he assists Friedlander, who has multiple sclerosis, with tasks such as going up and down stairs. Friedlander says he also indicates curbs for her and helps her balance.

While there is no national or federal certification for service dogs, trainer Fran Jewell said that Chocko and the other dogs she trains through the nonprofit organization Positive Partners generally undergo 300 hours of training in order to meet the standards set by the organization.

Biography: Chocko was brought to Jewell as a puppy by the Freidlanders for training through Jewell's for-profit training service, Positive Puppy Training. However, Chocko soon proved so adept at the training that it became clear he could become a service dog for Friedlander.

"He was an exceptional puppy," Jewell remembers. "When I found out Margery had MS and saw what an amazing dog Chocko was, I encouraged her to continue his training."

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