Meet Henry, SPL’s First Service Dog.

"Hello, I'm Henry!"

We have a new staff member named Henry! Henry works with Mike B., a librarian at the Central Library, and he’s a handsome fellow, yes?

Service Dogs are trained to work with individuals with physical or mental disabilities including panic attacks, PTSD and depression. But it’s not easy to become a Service Dog. First, the dogs must be screened for temperament. A good Service Dog is not protective, is people-oriented, is not overactive, and is confident but not dominant or submissive. Some are trained from puppyhood, but like many Service Dogs today, Henry is a rescue dog. With the downturn in the economy, shelters are finding that increasing numbers of dog owners are giving up their dogs because they are either relocating or having to downsize to places that don’t allow dogs. Many of these rescues are well suited to the rigorous training that a certified facility can provide.

These doggies undergo months of training with instructors and then they have to train with their people. Henry trained with Heeling Allies for six months and with Mike alone for several weeks. More training is ahead; Henry is going to be as educated as any librarian you’ll ever meet!

If you run into Henry, remember some of the etiquette for interacting with people and their Service Dogs:

  1. Speak to the person first. Do not aim distracting or rude noises at the dog .
  2. Do not touch the service dog without asking for, and receiving, permission.
  3. Do not offer food to the service dog.
  4. Do not ask personal questions about the handler’s disability, or otherwise intrude on his or her privacy.
  5. Don’t be offended if the handler does not wish to chat about the service dog.

Mike and Henry during training

Mike describes Henry as very serious at work but playful at home (he knows, in life, you need to mix it up a bit). He is great with kids, lets cats share his food dish while he is eating, and has a wise, yet puppyish soul. To learn more about the wonderful work done by service animals, check out Elise Lufkin’s inspiring and informative To the Rescue: Found dogs with a Mission, Rachel McPherson’s Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope & Healing into Our Lives, and Patricia Dibsie’s beautifully illustrated Love Heels: Tales from Canine Companions for Independence.

               ~ Marty, Broadview Branch

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15 Responses to Meet Henry, SPL’s First Service Dog.

  1. Adele says:

    This is a wonderful idea. It would cause quite a stir (or produce calming effect) if such service dogs could be introduced to Academic Libraries.

  2. Beth K says:

    Mike is a handsome fellow as well. I’ll have to make a trip to the downtown library to meet Henry. I hope he is working in the 636.7 section of the Spiral. Which rest room does he use? God bless you, Henry, in your important work.

  3. Scout says:

    Yay! This is wonderful!

  4. MO says:

    It makes me really impressed with SPL to see a Service Dog at working there. I bet the patrons love Henry. It’s always humanizing to see a (well behaved) animal in a public place.

  5. Terry says:

    This is really great. Our cousin has a service dog for PTSD, and it will be really nice for the kids to see another service dog at work. Can’t wait to bring them downtown to meet Henry!

  6. Sue says:

    I love the article. Seeing a service dog at work makes me smile. What a wonderful occupation for a dog and what a wonderful companion Henry is for Mike. Thanks for posting this great article.

  7. Phead says:

    Nice article. Makes me feel good about the library – they are making Seattle a better place.

  8. Bryan says:

    So happy to see this story, and to hear that the Seattle Public Library is welcoming Henry. It says a lot about the library, and it just makes it a better place for everyone.

  9. KT says:

    I love my library! This makes me so proud. Keep up the good work SPL.

  10. Susan says:

    I would also like to compliment Heeling Allies (in addition to Henry) for her ability to train and offer such a worthwhile service. There must be a well groomed relationship of cooperation and respect amongst Heeling Allies, the client and the rescue shelter. Well done everyone.

  11. PaulB says:

    As a member of the NW Service Dog Group, I am well aware of the prejudice and resistance we often deal with when introducing the program to a work place. Kudos to you SPL!! I sincerely hope you keep up the good work and expand your in library Service Dog program. You are setting a wonderful example for the community, and helping to educate children and adults alike in the this vital and amazing service.

  12. David W says:

    I almost ate lunch out of Henry’s food bowl the other day. But it’s a dog dish, so… um… kind of my bad, really. (-:

  13. Kay-TEE says:

    Of course, I’m in love with Henry at first glance. But I really especially want to send congratulations and endless admiration out to Mike B.
    Mike, thank you for fighting like the warrior you clearly are. I wish you many days of contentment, calm, satisfaction, fulfillment, joy and love.
    Thank you Thank you Thank you

  14. mia says:

    This article is so wonderful to find. I am so happy for Mike and Henry to have found each other. I am disabled and keep telling those closest to me, “if I only had an assistant… Just some help.” and then I found out tonight, what these dogs can do.
    My dog was “disabled” in his own way and recently passed away. ( He had terrible separation anxiety and passed away from renal failure.) We had to be together the last few years of his life, all day, everyday. Having had my dog in my life, he made me get up in the morning with a routine. One that I didn’t realized I had and needed until he was gone and I loved him. I hope to have the honor of adopting an assistance dog someday.

  15. meg says:

    My dog is a rescue dog as well. I was searching for a service dog program for mental health issues while i was fostering dogs for a boxer rescue, and my Hunter Bear came into my life. We had an instant connection – it was like he knew exactly what I needed. He alerts me to a switch into a manic episode, lets me cuddle him to no end, licks away my tears, learned how to give hugs when I’m depressed, etc. I also have seizures, and he’s becoming quite the seizure alert dog. Many of the techniques he and I have learned together for my anxiety and Bipolar are also relevant to helping me recover from a seizure, as there’s often a lot of anxiety and even the occasional psychosis afterwards. Hunter helps bring me back into the Here and Now, keeping me from spiraling into a dangerous anxiety attack (I seize a lot faster when I”m anxious, and much more severely. If I have an anxiety attack right after a seizure, I”lll go right into another one, and another, and another……..So he’s a God Send) Unfortunately, Hunter and I trained on our own because none of the trainers in my area would train him for Mental Health Services or Seizures (They didn’t know how), so he is by no means the perfect service dog. But he’s very obedient, and doesn’t do anything horribly innappropriate (He still sniffs backpacks, since that’s where I keep his treats when I”m out at school). He passes all the necessary tests for sercice dogs here in Idaho though, so we go everywhere! Now I am going back to school, and getting straight A’s because I can actually go to class with a larger group of people, and I can focus on my workload without overloading emotionally. It’s amazing. I am so grateful for him, and I’m happy that Mike has a Service Dog to help him. They are the best things in the world to give that extra help that medicine and therapy can’t give.

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