ORLEANS — The energetic ball of fluff called Mia is a companion dog. As she scampered around inside the Old Firehouse last week greeting other dogs and their people, her trainer looked on with admiration.
“She owns everywhere she goes,” said Gina Hayes, president of Just Dogs Training.
Mia is the latest in a long of animals trained by Hayes, including the beloved companion dog at Nauset Regional Middle School. It's unlikely that many have traveled as far as Mia, who was born in Russia and purchased by a woman from Kuwait. In a couple of weeks, she'll be here to pick up Mia, who will become Kuwait's first companion dog.
“Lena brought her to me in July,” said Hayes, who's also trained a couple of companion dogs now living in Dubai.
Mia has gotten one-on-one tutoring from Hayes's own dog, as have many others. “Georgia has been her big sister,” she said. “We call her Mother Theresa.”
Mia's “classroom work,” in a way, takes place Wednesday evenings at the Old Firehouse, where she mixes with all shapes and sizes of other companion dogs. “All these dogs helped teach her not to have 'little dog' syndrome,” Hayes said. “She hasn't found a dog or person she doesn't like.”
The dogs, including Mia, were a hit recently at Barnstable High School, where they helped 300 students relax during mid-term exams. “A teacher was kind of skeptical,” said Hayes, “but she could not put the dog down.”
That's the magic Mia and her colleagues work. Hayes recalled meeting a disabled veteran who was waiting to get his own companion dog. He asked if he could hold Mia, and Hayes put her in his lap. “He started to cry,” she said. “He was with her for about an hour.”
There's something about Mia that Hayes described as “energy – the soul – the spirit.” Companion animals have a knack for engaging with people, something on display when Hayes accompanies the dogs for frequent programs at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster.
Does the teacher miss her pupils when they move on to their permanent homes?
Hayes looked up, her eyes filled with memories.
“I miss them all.”