Seeing-Eye Dog working at Cedar Mountain

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  • Rusty is busy working in Cedar Mountain Primary School.

  • Cedar Mountain Primary School Counselor Nicole Keane helps Rusty calm down.

  • Rusty takes a play break.

Cedar Mountain Primary School is thrilled to have Rusty, the Seeing Eye Puppy, work in their school.

Nicole Keane, Cedar Mountain Primary School Counselor, and family currently, diligently train Rusty in their home through the Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Program.

Keane said Rusty has been a wonderful experience because everyone is learning about Seeing Eye service dogs — both children and adults — and the Seeing Eye organization. Morristown's Seeing Eye organization breeds and raises puppies to become Seeing Eye dogs for people who cannot see.

The children love Rusty, Keane said, and “He is really important around here.” She said, he teaches them to have self-control and self-regulation, just as Rusty is learning. They are also learning not to greet or distract a working dog, she added, because Rusty is working at school most days and has a schedule to keep.

Keane said the children also ask really good questions about Rusty. They are very interested in his birthday, how old he is, and what kind of dog he is. Rusty was born May 19; he is five and one-half months old; and he is 100 percent lab, with a beautiful, silky black coat.

Her favorite question so far has been, “Is he hard to control?” because the students notice Rusty dragging himself around, or her holding him tightly on the leash. She said, that was really cute and insightful.

Next week, Keane said, Rusty could earn and graduate from a little green scarf to his Seeing Eye Puppy vest, at the next Seeing Eye meeting. She said, he is required to know basic commands, and possibly commands he is unfamiliar with to ensure he is learning and growing up. Keane is only slightly concerned he sometimes does not like being told to lie down.

She said in about 12 to 15 months, he will leave their family, when the Seeing Eye Organization has room to train him to become a Seeing Eye Dog. They keep reminding themselves, she said, he is going to do a service for someone else. She added it is definitely still a loss, but it is a different loss than a dog passing away.

“Arf, arf, arf!” barked Rusty in her office during play time, or when he was not getting enough puppy attention.

She explained, his personality gets very mad when told no, which is a good thing, because he will need to think for himself. Possibly, she continued, he will need to disobey his future owner at times to protect the person, “No, we can't go into the railroad track.”

Principal Rosemary Gebhardt said,“It is a adorable, when the kids go in the room. They get really quiet, because they think they are teaching him how to be a good Seeing Eye dog.”

Keane added they whisper, “Rusty's here. Rusty's here.”

Gebhardt told Rusty, “Isn't this great? You had your first interview.” She also added, he blogs and is a ghost writer.

Keane concluded, “He's very intelligent.”

On top of being an inspiring resource for Cedar Mountain Primary School, Keane recently won 2018 NJ Representative for School Counselor of the Year. As part of the great honor, she and her husband will spend a couple of days during Feb. in Washington D.C., along with state representative school counselors of the year from each state, participate in an awards ceremony, and attend a gala, black tie event.

In order to win the state honor, Keane submitted essays and a video of all the pieces of what she does on a daily basis.

The award is through the N.J. School Counselors Association, and last year she won the Sussex County School Counselor of the Year in the Spring of 2016.

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