Most employees at Family Promise of the Palouse in Moscow, ID, sit at a desk. But one staff member, Kevin, requires a bed. Kevin is full of compassion for families in crisis and loves his job, but inevitably he likes to lie down and get some shut-eye. It’s all in a day’s work for him as the Affiliate’s therapy dog.
“Kevin is a calming presence to everyone,” says Executive Director Janine Rivera. “He picks up on when families are uneasy or under stress and automatically goes to them. If kids are nervous, he just lies down quietly until they warm up to him. And they always do!”
The Newfoundland belongs to Case Manager Rebecca Ryan, who brings him with her to work each day and includes him in family meetings. Rebecca has worked at Family Promise for about two years and started bringing Kevin to work a year ago. She has noticed a change in the way families open up since Kevin entered the picture.
“When families come to us, they’re usually in a state of anxiety and stress,” she says. “When Kevin’s here, they’re immediately drawn to him, and him to them. He’s an icebreaker, a bridge to ease the transition. And if anyone gets upset, he’s always right there to comfort them.”
The Cook family can attest to Kevin’s dedicated work ethic.
“We met Kevin on our very first day,” recalls Nathan, who came to Family Promise with his children Aidan and Kalina this past summer. “He’s big and friendly and helps make it comfortable for people to be here.”
The family is in the shelter program as they work with Family Promise to find housing. Nathan, who was injured on the job and is currently on disability, says Family Promise has also helped him with some car repairs to ensure the family has reliable transportation. He appreciates the supportive environment of Family Promise, including the time his family gets to spend with Kevin.
“Kalina’s especially close to him,” Nathan says. “She even started a little dog treat business because of Kevin.”
Kevin loved the special treats Kalina used to bring him from the local farmer’s market, and she got the idea to make her own. The biscuits were a hit, and she soon began selling them.
“Everybody’s close to Kevin,” Kalina says. “We just pet him, and he exchanges slobber for love and treats!”
Kevin was also one of the first staffers Alyssa and her seven-month-old met when they came to Family Promise last spring. The family was preparing to move into a new apartment when unexpected delays pushed back their move-in date, and Family Promise provided temporary shelter until their move later in the summer. While there, Alyssa worked with Family Promise to get her COVID vaccine, find daycare for her son, and formulate a parenting plan.
Alyssa has anxiety issues and says she can get overwhelmed quickly. She has a cat that serves as an emotional support animal, but her brother is caring for it until the family moves into their apartment. In the meantime, Kevin serves as a great source of comfort for her.
“I love Kevin!” she says. “He’s really gentle and a calming presence during meetings. He’ll notice if I’m starting to get upset and just put his head under my hand so I can pet him.”
The Cooks and Alyssa say being at Family Promise is a lot of hard work, but, as Nathan puts it, “Family Promise is there to make sure you succeed.” And if there’s a dog like Kevin to pet and play with along the way, the families agree, the journey is a little easier to manage.