BEND, Ore. - Going to the dentist’s office is not always the most fun thing to do, and it can be stressful. But one furry friend is changing the way people experience their visit.
Bluefish Dental & Orthodontics has a four-legged staff member: Birdie, a therapy dog in training.
"I wanted a scruffy-faced-dog that didn't shed and that was good with kids — a Muppet. I wanted a Muppet dog,” said Cate Quas, a pediatric dentist and orthodontist.
Quas opened the office in 2004, and Birdie joined the crew about a year ago. Earlier, Quas saw how well her first dog, Maddie, interacted with patients, and that inspired her to find a permanent office resident.
“When I saw Birdie’s picture, I thought, ‘Wow, that might be it,” she recalled.
Quas rescued the now-18-month-old wirehaired pointing griffon mix from an Arkansas shelter.
“She’s like a Disney character, honestly,” Quas said. “She’s a totally animated personality.”
And the younger patients especially find her a great companion during those not-fun times in a dentist’s chair.
“I’m a really big fan of dogs,” said Emma Polston, 8. “My favorite animal is a dog, and Birdie is really calm. She’ll just let you pet her.”
Birdie lay next to Emma during her appointment, helping make her feel comfortable. But most of the time, she’s at the front office, greeting patients.
“They can pet her. Sometimes, she will go out in the waiting room with a handler, and she generally just drops to her back and wants belly rubs most of the time,” Quas said.
Most of Birdie’s training came from therapy dog Expert Jack Barron of Pet Partners.
“She is fine with any sounds,” Barron said. “She can hear drilling of teeth, which bothers me, but doesn’t bother her.”
Barron said the key things Birdie needs to know is how to settle, stay in place and stay calm. That will make her the best certified therapy dog she can be.
"The kids really forget, for the moments, they're having their teeth worked on and concentrate on the dog,” he said. “And that's what it's about — to get them to think about the dog and not what's going on in their mouth."
The staff also has welcomed their new colleague.
“She’s playful, she’s smart,” Assistant Manager Jill “J.R.” Rowe said. “She brings this dynamic of, if someone is a little stressed out — if I’m a little stressed out — she will come and lay her head in my lap. I’ll give her a little love. It’s a nice reset.”