Official Publication of the Massachusetts Teachers Association
Canine companion helps educator do her work
Rose Rash, left, shares a moment with her service dog, Billy, and Rockport Teachers Association
President Jodi Goodhue. The RTA made sure Rash’s need for an accommodation for her medical
condition was met so that she could keep working as an elementary school diagnostician.
By Scott McLennan
W hen students meet with Rose Rash, they also meet with Billy.
Billy is the affable, highly trained standard
poodle that has allowed Rash to continue her work as
a diagnostician at Rockport Elementary School and
enjoy a quality of life that was being compromised
by a neurodegenerative disorder known as
“I was falling a lot,” Rash said, describing the
toll that the disease was taking.
Now, with Billy by her side, Rash has both the
physical support and the confidence to remain active.
Billy is trained to help Rash avoid stumbling and to
assist in an emergency.
About two years ago, Rash learned about service
dogs like Billy at a convention for people with
various movement-related conditions.
“The wheels started turning,” Rash said. She
made a trip to Virginia, where the Jasmine Charitable
Trust trains standard poodles and connects them with
people they can assist.
Rash says that she did not choose Billy. Billy
“He was all over me,” she said. Because poodles
are hypoallergenic, Rash also felt that Billy was
the perfect choice for someone who works around
hundreds of children.
Before the start of the 2014-15 school year,
some members of the Rockport School Committee
had raised the issue of allowing Rash to have a
service dog accommodation, and they suggested that
early retirement might be a better option. School
Superintendent Rob Liebow supported Rash and the
Rockport Teachers Association, however, in making
sure that the accommodation need was met.
“Awareness is a big issue,” said Jodi Goodhue,
president of the RTA. “When we think about
accommodations, we typically think about the
students. But staff members need accommodations,
too, and we need to make sure that people who need
them get them.”
Goodhue said that Rash’s situation underscores
how important it is for locals to be aware of members’
Rash said the school year with Billy unfolded
without any problems. The students first met Billy at
a school assembly held at the beginning of the year.
As the school’s diagnostician, Rash meets with
children who need various evaluations. When they
visit her office, Billy rests in a separate spot while
“The children are wonderful around Billy,” Rash
said. On one occasion when she was working with a
child who is nervous around dogs, Rash simply had
Billy wait in an adjoining office.
But for the most part, Billy is a familiar presence
at team meetings and by Rash’s side in the school’s
hallways. Billy even attended an RTA contract
After worrying about her condition and then
the possibility of having to change jobs or take early
retirement, Rash is thankful that she found a solution
to both her health and career concerns, as well as for
the support she received in gaining acceptance for
her canine assistant. She and Billy are both back in
school as the year opens.
“Life is good,” Rash said.
Photo by Scott McLennan
RTA President Jodi Goodhue said that
Rash’s situation underscores how
important it is for locals to be aware of
members’ rights, such as those provided
under the Americans with Disabilities Act.