Video Credit: Joseph Foulk and Roberto Lazarte
As small commuter planes make endless noisy landings at Chino Airport in San Bernardino County, a yellow and green Southern California Edison helicopter No. N810CE makes its way toward building A-290.
The pilot is greeted by two co-workers — and a 19-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever, ears flopped and tail wagging enthusiastically.
Meet Edison, a puppy being trained for an important job one day: special assistance dog for a person with a disability.
For the past two years, SCE employees Kristi and Tim Stout have volunteered with the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence as puppy raisers. Part of the dog’s training is to join the Stouts at work so he can be socialized and get used to a work environment.
All Photos: Elisa Ferrari
“It’s a lot of work, like having a newborn,” said Kristi, an administrative assistant at SCE’s Chino Air Ops, who has a kennel and a fenced-in area at her cubicle for the future assistance dog. “We know people who have service animals … and we wanted to give back. Without puppy raisers, people can’t get these dogs.”
Each morning at 6 a.m., Tim, an IT specialist, and Edison wake up and go for a 2 1/2-mile walk. After getting ready for work, the dog joins Kristi in Chino where he is around not only people, but helicopters and drones where the noise doesn’t seem to bother him.
A sign above Kristi’s desk asks visitors not to pet the dog: “Please do not talk to or acknowledge the dog behind the desk … This is all part of the training process in order for him to go on and do great things with someone who needs him.”
Not petting him is the hardest part for co-workers who have come to love Edison.
“He’s a really sweet dog, well behaved,” said Kristi’s manager David Guerrero, who, along with Tim’s manager, Scott Quinn, played an integral role in getting approval to bring the dog on site. “The hardest part is you can’t pet him.”
The Stouts approached their supervisors about bringing the dog to work to allow Edison a greater opportunity to be trained. After collaboration and approvals from various departments, it was determined the work environment and location could support the request and the trainers received written permission to bring the dog to work.
“It’s been great,” said Quinn. “Any safety issues have been addressed and it has not been disruptive to the work environment.”
So far, Edison — who was coincidentally given his name by the nonprofit’s staff before being placed with the Stouts — has learned about 40 commands, including sit, down and car, to get in the car.
Edison has also spent some unexpected time at the hospital and doctor’s office. Shortly after the Stouts received the dog, Kristi learned she had breast cancer. After several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, she is now on the road to recovery.
“It’s been a good experience for Edison to go to these facilities,” said Kristi. “To smell those smells and be around people who aren’t feeling great all the time. He is learning to be gentle and sensitive.”
In addition to attending regular obedience classes and submitting monthly reports to the nonprofit, trainers must also pay for the dog’s food and medical expenses.
Less than 40 percent of the puppies eventually go on to become special assistance dogs. Some that are not accepted are sometimes adopted by their raisers.
On Aug. 10, Edison will graduate from puppy training and go on to professional dog training. “I’m going to bawl like a baby,” said Kristi, as the turn-in date nears, while Tim added: “It will be horrible.”
The Stouts plan to stay involved with the nonprofit though, but this time as part-time special assistance dog baby sitters.
For more information: cci.org.