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NIA: How did you (Zoom) first become interested in emotional support work?
Zoom: I believe that all pets are therapy pets capable of emotional support work. Some have certifications and some are just moonlighting. It’s in my DNA.
When my human was dreaming about me before I was even conceived, she knew that what was most important was a well behaved pet that she could take anywhere.
Covid was actually a blessing because I was born on July 14, 2020 and I moved to my new home at the end of August. Because of Covid I was able to go to work with my human from day one and knew right away who needed support. EVERYONE.
Mentorship is important to all of us at Northern Insuring Agency and I have been so fortunate to have a terrific role model and mentor in Oliver Bell-Martin. Oliver was certified with Love on a Leash and had an excellent trainer. I started training with the same person at age 6 months and also became certified with Love on a Leash just after my first birthday.
Because of my human’s connection to healthcare (she is very involved in the UVM Health Network Board) and how hard the past few years have been for healthcare workers, we decided to start working with the Foundation of CVPH. Once we were approved (we even got nametags and a vest!) we let the volunteer coordinator know that we wanted to either provide support to palliative care patients or provide support to the staff.
I love my time at CVPH. We sign in when we get there and the people at the front desk are always so nice to me. They give me pets and I make them smile. Sometimes they get down on the floor at my level too and we really get going with the support. We visit different floors and patients that need me and I always make time to visit the staff.
NIA: What do you enjoy most about working at NIA?
Zoom: So many things!
I love it when clients come to the office just to see me. This happened one day when we had one of our kindest clients visit. She just wanted me to sit with her so that she could pet me. I could have done that all day.
The team here are all fun, awesome and welcoming. I know just who to go to for what I need (belly rubs, treats, walks, etc.) and I can tell when someone needs a little Zoom love. Sometimes I surprise people by curling up in their office space. When this happens it usually means they needed me to be there.
Looking out the windows in the Executive wing gives me a full view of who is coming and going and what is happening on Margaret Street. Occasionally a critter lands on the windowsill or climbs a nearby tree. It is like the best combination of the nature and machine TV channels on steroids.
NIA: What techniques do you use to help my colleagues feel comfortable and relaxed?
Zoom: I will let everyone know when I have arrived and how happy I am to see them. I have a welcome round that I do all over the 10,000 square foot home office. On super lucky days we go on road trips to our branch offices in Potsdam and Glens Falls. I love to visit the branches!
I roll over and show my belly for a rub most often. People love this! It works every time. Everyone is happier and more relaxed after a little belly rubbing session.
When I started, I was still learning not to bark at the office. After I had my 1st year feedback on how I could improve, I learned how to be respectful of quiet time and the amount of concentration it takes for the team to do their jobs well. Everyone is more comfortable when I am calm.
NIA: Do you have any special tricks or methods for calming people down or helping them cope with stress?
"One of my most special gifts is that I can lick human tears. If someone is having an emotional moment, I am very comfortable being close and quiet."
Going for walks is something we promote for our team, and I am a willing participant in this stress-relieving adventure. I can go to the bank, around the block or to a local coffee shop. All these places are terrific to visit and just going outside is better for everyone. I encourage all kinds of physical activity no matter the weather - rain, snow or sunshine.
NIA: Tell me about a time at work that you had a particularly positive impact on someone.
Zoom: My human would tell you that this is true everyday! She is a better leader because I am her sidekick.
That aside, see the earlier question on what I enjoy about working most at NIA. I love it when I can sit with clients that come just to see me. I didn’t know that this would be such a great job where I have a title and responsibilities that make people happier.
NIA: What challenges have you faced at work and how have you overcome them?
Zoom: I mentioned earlier about my unwelcome barking. No bueno. We have what is called the APD2 (Annual Professional Development Discussion) and I was not exempt from this process. My human sent a survey to all of the team and then during one of our company wide Town Hall meetings I got my feedback while we were on Zoom. I do a lot of things really well though the biggest change I needed to make was to control my exuberance by barking. I didn’t know that what I was doing was causing angst, and I have worked hard to change my behavior. My human is also mindful of keeping me close by her until after 10 am. The feedback has been positive since.
NIA: How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your Chief Comfort Officer job?
Zoom: I wake up naturally motivated and enthusiastic every day. I get a good night’s sleep, eat the right food, exercise, get combed, my teeth brushed and I'm ready for the day.
Every day is a new opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Showing up ready to go is the key here, and this is my Zoom superpower.
NIA: What advice would I give to someone considering a career in emotional support?
Get a mentor and a good trainer!
Engage continuous improvement. Be open to feedback.
Show up ready for whatever comes your way.
Tap into your superpower. You got this!
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