Golden Retriever Service Dog Learns to Wear PPE so He Can Work in the Lab with His Owner
Service dog Sampson works as his owner’s lab assistant at the University of Illinois.
This golden retriever has been trained to be a laboratory assistant for his disabled neuroscientist owner — and even wears his own canine PPE.
Service dog Sampson is required to wear PPE for safety reasons as he helps owner Joey Ramp conduct her crucial lab work every day.
Joey, 56, suffered traumatic head injuries following a serious horse-riding accident in 2006 and returned to education to gain a better understanding of the human brain.
Sampson, dressed in goggles and a lab coat, is the first-ever canine to be granted access to a chemistry laboratory at The University of Illinois.
“If I drop something in the lab, he’ll come to my side, and I can use him as a brace to kneel down and pick up what I need,” said Joey of Champagne, Illinois, who is also a disability advocate. Sampson is also on hand to spot signs and react to Joey’s PTSD.
Joey, a former horse trainer, damaged her prefrontal cortex and suffered permanent nerve damage to the left side of her body after the polo accident. She also suffered 23 broken bones, including a fractured eye socket, cheekbone, two vertebrae, jaw, and collar bone.
Joey now holds two BA degrees in neuroscience and is working towards her Ph.D. with Sampson’s help around the lab.
She told SWNS: “I couldn’t possibly navigate academics or a neuroscience program without his assistance. There’s more focus on the dog than the service they are providing, and they were barring an entire population of students from entering lab work and ultimately the STEM field.”
This became the drive for Joey to start advocating for service dogs to be allowed into laboratories and creating guidelines to make it happen.
These guidelines include dogs having to wear the same lab PPE that humans wear and being in the direct line of sight of their handler at all times.
They must also have a rubber-backed mat and be trained to lie on it for up to four hours, out of the way of lab traffic, and learn to retrieve things on command instead of automatically.
Joey and Sampson now work with universities globally to help them adopt the guidelines and introduce more service dogs into the labs.
“It takes the mystery out of what a service dog does and how you can accommodate them in a lab,” she said. “It also gives handlers an idea of what training their dog requires, because learning to wear goggles takes time.”
Joey includes the PPE routine in Sampson’s everyday life to keep him acclimated to his work attire.
“If we’re not in the lab for a while, I’ll put the goggles on, and we’ll go out and play frisbee, and he’ll run around,” she said.
Sampson is a regular golden retriever who loves to roll in mud and play fetch outside of work.
“He’s just a normal dog when we’re home and he’s playing,” Joey added.
While Joey knows Sampson looks cute in his PPE, she wants people to remember that he has an important job to do and wants the public to start getting used to service dogs in labs.
“I really want people to start understanding that service dogs have a very high level of training,” she said. “They provide independence and keep their handler healthy, happy, and able to go about life in ways they wouldn’t be able to do without their service dog.”
“People with disabilities do want to study science and to look at people with disabilities and service dog handlers with a view of making things more accessible to them is really important and it’s time,” Joey added.