Monday, October 22, 2018
by Kathryn Holleman • email@example.com
BJC, AMH | They say you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
Joba knew it was time to fold ’em.
A 9-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, Joba had spent seven years as April Havey’s guide dog and loyal companion. Havey, who is blind, was completing a fellowship with BJC transformation support when Joba started showing uncharacteristic behaviors. The unfailingly obedient and reliable Joba would suddenly plop on the floor and refuse to move.
An animal behaviorist from Guiding Eyes, the non-profit organization that trained Joba and matched him with Havey, came to observe the behavior. The verdict: Joba was announcing his intention to retire.
Agencies like Guiding Eyes select and train dogs that are physically and temperamentally suited to the service work they do. But the job can be demanding, and even the most willing dog gets tired, typically at about ages 8-10.
“A guide dog has to walk a significant amount,” says Amy Schuler, who was Havey’s supervisor during the fellowship. “Joba had hit his limit. Like a person, he just decided he didn’t want to work anymore.”
Havey faced a decision. She could let Joba retire but keep him as a pet. She could re-home Joba with someone she knew. Or she could let Guiding Eyes take him back for adoption by one of the families on their waiting list for retired dogs.
Joba had been active and Havey often entered him in dock-diving competitions. So, she decided that whatever happened to Joba, he needed room to run and a place to swim.
That’s when Schuler stepped in. “I’m a sucker for dogs,” she says.
With three retrievers of her own and a house that backed up to a lake, Schuler offered Joba the perfect retirement home.
But before Joba could retire, he had one last assignment.
After her fellowship ended, Havey took a permanent job as the customer service manager with a Milwaukee company in early 2018. Trying to acclimate to a new job, new city and a new guide dog at the same time would be confusing for her and the new dog. Havey decided to take Joba to Milwaukee to help her get settled, before turning him over to Schuler.
In March, Schuler brought Joba and Havey from Wisconsin to her home in Illinois. One of Schuler’s three dogs had died, leaving Mason, a three-legged golden retriever, and Millie, a retriever mix. Joba quickly made friends. He also enjoyed zipping around the backyard and leaping off the dock.
On Joba’s retirement day, Schuler took Havey to the train station for her journey to Guiding Eyes for her new support dog.
“Talk about emotional,” says Schuler. “April was emotional, of course. But when Joba realized that she was going and he wasn’t going with her, the look on his face …”
The first few days were rough on Joba.
In the mornings, he’d get up and wait at the door, ready to work.
“It took him about a month to come out of his shell,” says Schuler, who is now the Alton Memorial Hospital performance improvement/project management manager.
But soon, Joba warmed up to his new human and canine companions. Before long, he was running with the other dogs and jumping off the dock whenever Schuler opened the back door.
About four months after Joba began settling into his new life, Havey came for a long weekend visit, bringing her new guide dog, a black Labrador, with her.
Joba immediately recognized Havey.
“He wouldn’t leave her side. He recalled all the commands. He even slept with her the first night,” Schuler says. “He stepped right into his old life.”
But this time, when Havey and her new dog left for home, Joba eased back into retirement, knowing he’d played his cards just right.
Joba and Schuler, along with several other service dogs, are scheduled to attend the Paws with a Purpose panel discussion and pet food drive, sponsored by the BJC Disability Connection group, 5-7 p.m., Oct. 30, at the BJC Learning Institute lower level auditorium. (See related story below.)
Paws with a Purpose: Celebrating service and support dogs in the BJC workplace
All BJC team members are invited to come and learn about the working dogs of BJC. Have your picture taken with puppies in training and attend a panel discussion that explores how dogs make the lives of their handlers, and those around them, so much better. The event is hosted by the BJC Disability Connection Group, 5-7 p.m., Oct. 30, in the BJC Learning Institute lower level auditorium. RSVP if you plan to attend.
The panel will feature:
Time will be available to ask questions. After the discussion, meet the panel members and their dogs.
The Oct. 30 event will also include a pet food drive to benefit Bi State Pet Food Pantry, which provides emergency pet food to pets’ guardians during financially difficult times. The group will collect any size bags of dry dog and cat food, canned dog and cat food, dog and cat treats and cat litter, and accessories such as leashes and beds, whether new or used.
For more information or to join the BJC Disability Connection planning committee, email Deborah Springer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diversity and inclusion are a big part of BJC’s identity, and an important step to inclusiveness is connecting with and understanding one another. To learn more about BJC Connections groups and how to get involved, visit https://www.bjc.org/BJC-Connections.
Number of views (1926)/Comments (8)
10/23/2018 9:25 AM
10/24/2018 9:29 AM
Love this story, and so very happy that Joba found his retirement home with a wonderful family.
10/24/2018 10:18 AM
What a terrific story with such a happy ending! Thank you for letting the greater BJC community hear about this.
10/24/2018 12:49 PM
Joba was an amazing dog and an honorary team member on the CCE Transformation Support team. Having a dog at the BJC Learning Institute positively added to the atmosphere and culture.
Additionally, Joba could not have found a better home than with Amy!!!
10/24/2018 12:58 PM
I had the privilege to work with Amy for a few years. She is amazing and that is one lucky dog.
10/26/2018 8:53 AM
Knowing and working with Amy for many years at AMH, this is one LUCKY dog!! And she looks pretty happy too!!!
10/30/2018 9:44 AM
11/1/2018 10:05 AM
It was so great to meet you and Joba in person at the Paws with a Purpose event put on by the Disability Connections group. It was such an interesting meeting and all of the dogs, including Joba, had such interesting "tails" to tell. Thanks for being a part of it - he's a lucky boy to have such a nice life in retirement.