When Parkside Home’s new CEO, Valerie McGhee, started three months ago, she was not the only one hired for the position.
Her 3-year-old toy Papillion, Gigi, also works at Parkside as a therapy dog.
Gigi was born July 13, 2013, in Otis, Kansas, to a family who bred dogs to compete in shows across the country.
“Gigi was too small to show, even as a toy,” McGhee said, “so they sold her as a pet.”
Since being adopted by McGhee, Gigi has had many opportunities to travel across the country, including Kansas City, Chicago, and New York.
“I would have to say a farm in Ellsworth was her all-time favorite place to visit because she could run,” McGhee said. “In big cities, she can’t run because she has to be on a leash.”
McGhee had been looking for a therapy dog for her work, and picked Gigi because of Papillions’ intelligence, agility, and ability to make great therapy dogs.
Gigi has undergone training to avoid gaining “small dog syndrome,” in which smaller dogs exhibit yappy barking, ankle biting, or cowering when people approach.
“I have to speak sternly to her just like you think that I would when I don’t want her to do something,” McGhee said, “because they’re so precious and so cute, everyone goes, ‘Aw, you’re so cute, you don’t have to do that.’ Oh, yes, you do.”
Gigi is a hit at Parkside, with most of the residents loving to hold a well-behaved lap-sized dog.
“She’s not afraid of anyone or anything,” McGhee said. “She’ll go to anyone, and as long as they don’t mind her sitting on their lap or on their bed, they’re fine.”
Part of why Gigi gets along with anyone who allows her to sit on their lap has to do with the Papillion breed’s natural people-pleasing nature.
“She doesn’t like to stay home by herself,” McGhee said. “She likes to interact with people.”
McGhee also enjoys the interactions that Parkside’s smaller environment offers. She did not have that while working for Via Christi Villages in Manhattan.
“I love it here, absolutely love it,” McGhee said. “The part I really enjoy is the staff. The staff here seem dedicated, they are caring, there’s less turnover here, and they know why they’re here.”
McGhee hopes to get Parkside more involved in the community and vice versa.
“I’d love to have people from the community coming on the campus to realize we’re a cool place to be,” McGhee said. “People don’t just sit around and do nothing. There’s a bunch of things to do here all the time.”
Like owner like dog, McGhee and Gigi both love what they do.
“She is a workaholic just like her mother,” McGhee said. “We’re very similar that way.”