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Inside the Mission

Rosie the dog, more than just a companion at The Harbor

rosie, the harbor, portland rescue mission, new life ministry, new life ministries, recovery pets

Steven, a graduate of our New Life Ministry at The Harbor, with Rosie the dog.

Being caught in the storms of addiction and homelessness can make for a rough ride, and the recovery journey is no exception. For men at The Harbor, our 12-month New Life Ministry at Portland Rescue Mission, this recovery journey is also one of the most challenging things they’ve ever had to navigate. That’s where Rosie the Harbor Dog comes in.

“With Rosie here, it gives The Harbor more of a family feel—a sense of home,” said Ben, a former resident. “When we come in the door, she’s there to greet you. When she sees people she doesn’t know, she barks at them. … she really does add to the family atmosphere.

“She brings a sense of calm to this place. Just petting a dog like Rosie will lower your blood pressure.”

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Rosie relaxes in the Community Life room at The Harbor.

Rosie came to The Harbor about two years ago in July 2014. She’s two years old (her birthday is April 24, 2014). And since her arrival, she’s been a permanent fixture at the facility in northeast Portland. But more than just a great addition to The Harbor family, she has also played a vital role in the recovery process—just by being the loyal companion that she is.

For Justin, another former resident, “Having Rosie here was very beneficial to the healing taking place. She is kind of a therapeutic blessing for guys like me who are facing a lot of things,” he explained. “Anytime I would get frustrated or filled with anxiety she was a wonderful outlet for me. … From the first time I saw her, I was filled with joy again.

“When you’re getting settled here, it can take a while to get comfortable and adapt to the surroundings. Having a dog come up to you can take your mind off everything. It brings you comfort.”

Rosie’s influence spreads further than just to individuals at The Harbor. She brings a sense of unity that connects all of the New Life Ministry participants together in a way that is all her own.

“Rosie is everyone’s friend. She’s always in a good mood. She doesn’t usually change much and she’s something you can lean on,” Jesse, a current resident described. “When she’s out playing or whatever, I see a lot more guys laughing and having fun. She lightens everyone’s spirits and provides an uplifting presence in the house.

“Rosie probably takes more on than most people realize.”

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Rosie runs down the halls at The Harbor.

For many of the men, in fact, Rosie represents something more than just a fun aspect of their time at The Harbor. She serves as an ideal for what they’re aspiring to be.

“Rosie is a great example of what it means to love everybody. She’s always there for everybody no matter who they are or what they’re going through. She’s what I want to be one day,” Justin said. “The love that God puts in dogs like Rosie is something special.”

And Jesse agreed, “She accepts everybody, whether they’re new to the program or have been around awhile, regardless of their past,” he explained. “Whoever comes into The Harbor, Rosie makes sure to go up to and brush past them to see what they’re doing. If she really likes them, [she’ll] get up on their lap and lay herself all the way over the top of them.

“Once she gets to know someone, she’s their friend forever.”

As Rosie proves with her care and compassion, dogs truly are a man’s best friend. And for men at The Harbor, she has carved out a special place in the community itself, and in the hearts of each of the men that have come through the program since her arrival nearly two years ago. Come volunteer at The Harbor and see for yourself. You can also catch a cameo appearance of Rosie when you watch our latest video of Bradley’s Story of Hope.