New program allows healthcare workers to take a puppy home for the weekend

One day, the puppies of Elite Detection K9 in Rochester Hills will be able to detect explosives. But before then, they're helping bring smiles to the faces of some worn-out healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"These are not couch potatoes," said President and CEO of Elite Detection K9, Gregory Guidice, of the puppies. "Cassanova started getting trained when he was a week old."

The pre-school training program teaches puppies how to sniff for explosives. The puppies work their way through the program until they become high schoolers, who are ready to graduate. At that point, they’ll be in high demand to work at sporting events, schools and hospitals. 

"They have a dual purpose to serve as protection primarily, but dogs have a good way to soften all of us," Guidice said. 

Guidice has a recent experience with healthcare workers and their COVID fatigue. The inspiration behind a new program called "Puppy Furlough." It was designed for first responders and they are able to take a puppy home for the weekend. 

"It’s like having grandkids come over," Guidice said. "It’s like you can have them for the weekend, and then they go back."

Right now, the program is being offered at St. Joe’s and McLaren in Pontiac, but officials hope to offer it at more hospitals in the future.

"Pick up is on Friday and we supply cage, food and a little manual," Guidice said. 

And on Drop off Sunday, the pups are tired out. 

"It really exposed them to things we don’t necessarily have here," Guidice said. 

The healthcare workers, of course, are left wanting more. 

"Most have said halfheartedly, we hope Zara doesn’t make it because we’d like to adopt her," Guidice said. 

The puppies are booked for the next two months, but Guidice said there is always another litter on the way. 

"It’s been a treat for us and it’s been a treat for first responders," Guidice said.