By Ayah Elsheikh, ‘20 and Josie Stewart, ‘21
For freshman Sam Rosen, many conversations begin with the golden coated companion that sits at his feet. Roma, a golden lab mix, has been Rosen’s service dog for seven years and travels with him during most of the school day.
Rosen and Roma met when she was two months old after originally failing training to become a service dog. Rosen still took in Roma and soon after, she completed training through a separate program in 15 days, officially becoming Rosen’s companion.
The high school is a new environment for both Rosen and Roma after coming from Jones, but despite any challenges, Roma has adjusted quickly to her new surroundings.
“She has to get to know the whole school, but she’s fast. She probably knows the school better than I do,” said Rosen.
Not only does Roma help Rosen get around in the hallways, she also helps calm him down anytime he becomes nervous.
“She makes things easier,” Rosen said. “She just calms things down and she understands when I’m nervous.”
When Roma detects any stress from Rosen, she typically puts her head in his hands or paws at him to try to ease the situation.
“She helps so much, especially during school and in areas with a lot of people. I get really nervous during those times so she just mak
es everything calm and makes it easier to talk to people, too,” Rosen said. “A lot of the conversations [revolve] around Roma. So [I can talk about] things I know about and that are easy [for me]. Once I get to know a person, it becomes less about Roma and more of an actual friendship.”
These small gestures make a great difference, especially with Rosen’s daily interactions and comfort during class.
“[Before I had Roma,] I was behind on a lot of stuff. I couldn’t focus,” said Rosen.
Rosen had the idea for a service dog after seeing their positive effects with one of his friends. Soon later, Roma came into his life and the two have fostered a relationship over time to help Rosen during school, but also to be a pet that he can enjoy the company of at home.
Although both Rosen and Roma can relax at home, Roma is typically seen in a service dog vest during the school day to signal to others that she is there to help, but also for Roma herself so she knows she’s on duty.
“I noticed a lot while in the class that people time to reach out for Roma to pet her. You can’t really pet her while her vest is on. If her vest were to be off [after school], you can pet her. If her vest is on and so many people are petting her, it makes all the hard work that we did in training go away,” Rosen said. “She knows that when the vest is on she’s working, and when the vest is off, she’s not.”