It has been six years since Gus and I started this work. When he was two, Gus began visiting nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and libraries with me, and over last year he and I began our journey together with Nellie’s Schoolhouse. During those seventy-two months, Gus has made over 150 of those visits, finding himself in vastly different environments with diverse
people, of all ages, backgrounds, genders, race, religion and abilities–just being a dog.
Gus is a remarkable canine. Yes, he spreads joy, comfort and calm to all he meets, but it is how he does it that fills my heart. He greets everyone with a total and pure appreciation, with a sincere sense of honoring and embracing each individual he encounters, with a grace that passes all understanding and that makes me love him fully.
His tail has been pulled, his head grabbed, his feet held, his ears twisted, but he has stood resolute and unbending, forgiving those who have accidently or unknowningly violated his physical space. He has never, never reacted to those moments with anything but composure and understanding. Patient beyond measure, lacking pernicious judgment, with an innate sense of the importance of the work he is doing, Gus is one of the major reasons I founded Nellie’s Schoolhouse.
Am I giving him too much credit? Am I transposing onto him human feelings and emotions when Gus will do anything I ask in exchange for a meaty treat? Perhaps. But when I see him interact with the children who are members of Nellie’s Schoolhouse, I know the power of connection and relationship he brings to our youngsters. That bond, that ability to simply BE with a young boy or girl, is gift to me and to us. Simply, Gus knows what he’s doing.
Gus inspires me everyday as do the children and families we serve. They all are the reasons I love what I do.