Jax, a yellow Labrador, is the Chief Cheer Officer for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest. Jax was a part of Guide Dogs for the blind training program until his trainers decided his destiny should be working as a therapy dog. He was generously awarded to us without cost making RMHC of the Southwest the first chapter to receive a service dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
The opportunities for Jax to work with children and their families are plentiful and no two days are alike. “In training, they really see the dog’s personality,” said Dina Jeffries, president and chief executive officer of RMHC of the Southwest. “Jax has the ability to build relationships and remember people. He loves to be out and about to shine with kiddos – that’s his super power!”
At the Ronald McDonald House in Lubbock, a number of games or activities have been created specifically for Jax to fit the abilities of the kids: Find it. Puzzles. Catch. Jax can play his own version of a shell game when a child hides kibble under one cup and Jax will find and touch the cup. The Ronald McDonald House® allows families to avoid hotel bills or long commutes during times of a child’s illness when a family’s love and support is critical.
Parents also can request that Jax visit their child in the hospital. The visits make a difference for the child and his family. Jax can encourage children in the pediatric unit to walk down the hall when they need to get moving. Jax takes his cue from the kids who may talk about experiences such as chemotherapy or they may read books, watch video games and or just sit together.
Sheri Anderson, a professional dog trainer in Lubbock works with the staff to make sure that all of Jax’s handlers are consistent with appropriate commands and procedures, but at the end of the day, it’s Jeffries who takes Jax home. “Jax needs to bond with a person and a family. He can’t be passed around. At home, he reverts back to a real dog. He loves his down time as much as work,” she said.
“I think that Jax has chosen this path,” Jeffries concluded. “There is no other way he could do everything we do in such a genuine way.”