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A little dog with a big impact: Ace the therapy dog

Ace sleeping on a student’s lap. Photo courtesy of @little_ace_dog on Instagram/Susan Breslof. Used with permission.

As the days wind down, the sun sets and the dinner rush begins, we can take comfort in knowing that for a single hour on Thursday night, we can meet one of the three campus therapy dogs and finally relax. For the past two years, Susan Breslof has brought her dog, Ace, to the University. Each Thursday, Breslof and Ace head to work and make their way to the University directly after.

Ace laying down on a student’s lap, staring up at the camera. Photo courtesy of @little_ace_dog on Instagram/Susan Breslof. Used with permission.

Ace is a little lap dog with lots of personality; Breslof lovingly calls the nine-year-old dog a “mutt” as he is a mixed breed of a miniature poodle, pug, shih tzu, lhasa apso and terrier. Many students adore Ace’s unique appearance, like Nyemiah Collins, a Junior Psychology Major who remarked, “his eyes are so big and expressive, his little face makes you feel at home…”

Susan Breslof holding Ace. Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Magazine/Elizabeth Radko.

Breslof and Ace began working with the University on recommendation from Valerie DeMarco—owner of Jarvis and Gunther, the other two therapy dogs that visit the campus—while the two were volunteering at the Yale New Haven Hospital. However, their journey to working with the University started long before that. Breslof got Ace when he was just a puppy and noticed his calming disposition as he interacted with her terminally ill mother. The relaxation that the little dog brought her mother made many people surrounding Breslof start to recommend that Ace become a therapy dog. Ace formally passed his certification exam in 2018, and was then registered with Therapy Dogs International in 2019. Sadly, Breslof’s mother passed away just before Ace earned his certification.

Ace lying down on a carpeted floor. Photo courtesy of Jana Zhu. Used with permission.

Breslof and Ace have been doing events like this for four years now, and Breslof has noticed a lot about her dog’s behavior in that time. For example, he loves nothing more than visiting hospitals and universities, but he does not enjoy having to walk on tile flooring, and much prefers carpet as it’s less slippery. Breslof also noted that, at Yale New Haven Hospital specifically, Ace will not walk anywhere near the large fountain there. He will stop walking and Breslof will have to pick him up and carry him past it.

Ace laying on the ground, surrounded by a group of students. Photo courtesy of @little_ace_dog on Instagram/Susan Breslof. Used with permission.
Ace standing and staring out the room, waiting for people to enter. Photo courtesy of Nyemiah Collins. Used with permission.

In addition to learning some of Ace’s own quirks, Breslof has also taken note of the positive impact that the therapy dog events have on both the people she and Ace meet and on Ace himself. According to Breslof, Ace is an “attention hog,” and adores coming to meet new people. For example, when visiting one of the hospitals he frequents, Ace is always glad to see the nurses, as they love to act like paparazzi, snapping photos as he walks by. Even at the University, Ace has shown his dramatic side and need for attention, as he will get up and rush towards people coming through the door to meet him. Breslof believes that this bubbly yet soothing personality is the most important thing in a therapy dog: “Personality is number one, training is number two.” Breslof remarks that almost any dog can be trained, but if they don’t have that loving and inviting personality, they’re missing that spark that makes a successful therapy dog.

Ace sitting in the lap of Jana Zhu. Photo courtesy of Nyemiah Collins. Used with permission.

This friendly yet relaxed manner has made many students fall in love with the little pooch, leading quite a few to visit him weekly. Jana Zhu, a Junior Psychology Major, when asked about why she enjoyed coming each week, said, “it’s the perfect way to end my night after a long day of work. I like when he makes himself comfortable on your lap…[it’s] like he feels safe with you. Which is nice because he’s supposed to make you feel comfortable and safe.” Another student, Ella Surdyka, a Junior Civil Engineering Major, also added that she not only likes to see Ace but Breslof as well: “[Ace] gives the best cuddles and his mom Susan [Breslof] is also a pleasure…we talk to her through the whole event.” 

Ace sleeping in a student’s lap as the student holds his paw. Photo courtesy of @little_ace_dog on Instagram/Susan Breslof. Used with permission.

These types of statements are Breslof’s favorite part of bringing Ace to events. She loves to see the smiles Ace can bring to people’s faces and hear that something as simple as her little dog cuddling up with them for a moment is someone’s favorite part of their day. 

You can see more of Ace on his Instagram, @little_ace_dog.





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Elizabeth Radko
Elizabeth Radko, Photojournalism Editor
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