From left to right, Paige Buckman, Gary Buckman Jr. and Lucy celebrate Lucy earning her Canine Good Citizen certification.

NEW PALTZ — There’s a new worker on the job at SUNY New Paltz.

While she didn’t pass a civil service test to land her gig, she’s been preparing for this role nearly her entire life.

Meet Lucy. Her job specifications are a little different than the rest of the SUNY New Paltz workforce, but she serves a vital role on campus. A nearly two-year old standard poodle, Lucy is a service dog for SUNY New Paltz Local Treasurer Gary Buckman Jr.

When the process to have Lucy approved to be on campus stalled, our union successfully advocated on Buckman’s behalf. Now, Lucy is by her handler’s side as he completes his job duties as a janitor.

“Not all illnesses are visible,” said Buckman. “You can’t tell by looking at me that there is something wrong with me, but in reality, I have stage four kidney failure, I’m anemic and my blood pressure is out of control.”

That’s where Lucy comes in. Unlike emotional support animals or therapy dogs, service dogs are trained for specific tasks. Buckman and his wife, Paige, worked with a local trainer to initially have Lucy earn her Canine Good Citizen certification through the American Kennel Club and learn the skills needed to help Buckman.

“The two main things she is used for is when my blood pressure is elevated or a panic attack is coming on,” said Buckman.

Scent and saliva training allow Lucy to alert Buckman when his blood pressure is headed up into higher-than-normal levels. Lucy also helps with crowd control, circling Buckman to create a barrier with the goal of preventing a panic attack.

Gary Buckman Jr. and Lucy at the 113th Annual Delegates Meeting.

Lucy recently accompanied Buckman to CSEA’s Annual Delegates Meeting in Buffalo, where she helped create space for him in rooms that at times became quite crowded.

“She is working alongside me while I’m working,” said Buckman. “People assume it’s glamorous, but she is literally next to me as I’m cleaning a bathroom on campus. I try to deglamorize it, because there’s a lot more that goes into having a service dog than you think. I have to know all the laws [regarding service animals], something I would never have thought about before.”

While Lucy received the go-ahead to accompany Buckman on campus, she continues to build her skills as a service dog.

“Any good trainer will tell you that service dog training is every day,” said Buckman. “There is a lot of time that goes into it.”

Our union’s support has helped Buckman get the campus accommodation he needed, he said.

“I’ve had a lot of support from both officers and staff,” said Buckman, noting that both Southern Region President Anthony Adamo and SUNY New Paltz Local President Fred DeStefano were particularly encouraging. “Our LRS, Howard Baul, was researching the issues. [CSEA Deputy Director of State Operations] Rob Scholz was able to confirm that Lucy was at the ADM for an entire week and there were no issues. It felt good to be able to call people in our union and know they were there to help.”

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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