Article courtesy of Securus Technologies.
A two- for-one deal is hard to beat.
When Danny Jones was hired to work at Alphapointe, the organization figuratively, and, in many ways, literally, gained two new associates.
Jones started at Alphapointe’s contact center on August 21, 2017, as a Tier 1 Investigator, which is equivalent to a Communications Analyst. Along with Jones came Teton, his black Labrador guide dog. Since “their” hire, the tandem has become office mainstays, with Jones being promoted to Tier 2 Investigator/Lead, and Teton, in addition to his guide duties, becoming the office’s mascot.
Both Jones and Teton have proven to be valuable assets. Supervisor of the eight-person team, Chris Montavon, has described Jones as the future of the squad. “He has been a tremendous help and the backbone of this department when I am out sick or on vacation,” Montavon said. “Danny has the respect of his staff and the Alphapointe management. One day, if I move on, Danny could take over all functions of this department without causing any issues. He is management in training, and the best No. 2 that I could ever ask for.”
Montavon says Teton has equally been a tremendous addition to the team.
“Teton is a wonderful lift-me-up to the group,” Montavon said. “He is the hardest worker here, and always has a positive attitude. I treat him like family.” As much as possible, Montavon says Teton also is managed like every other associate. “He is listed in the attendance tracker, has great attendance and he gets his own yearly review,” Montavon said. “He keeps Danny on his toes. Danny and Teton are a great team, but if you ask Teton who’s the boss, he will always say he is.”
Alphapointe is a multi-faceted organization with an array of divisions, products and services. Its mission is to empower people with vision loss to achieve their goals and aspirations. The organization was founded by Catherine Hale in 1911 to provide opportunities for those who are blind or visually impaired, like her brother, who had no other or limited opportunities.
With more than 400 employees, eight of whom are communications analyst associates, Alphapointe is the third-largest employer of people who are legally blind in the United States. Jones, like his coworkers at Alphapointe, uses unique equipment, along with specially adapted software, to monitor calls and maintain the Team motto of “Small but MIGHTY!”
Along with being named the very first CA Associate of the Month in April of 2018, Jones has been recognized as Alphapointe’s Call Center Employee of the Year for 2020. The partnership between Jones and Teton began in January of 2013 after Jones went to Guide Dogs for the Blind in Portland, Ore.
“Teton was fully trained when I received him and then we spent two weeks so they could train me,” Jones said. Jones quickly discovered that Teton, who was born Aug. 7, 2011, was special. “Most guide dogs are in training for six-to-eight months. Teton was done in three,” Jones said. Since then, the two have been inseparable.
“Where (Jones) goes, Teton is always there,” said Montavon
Teton’s job is to guide Jones wherever they need to go and not run them into things. “If we come across a parked car, Teton stops so I can look and see what is in front of us,” Jones said. “He takes me around poles or anything that might be in our path.
“Along with guiding me down sidewalks, through buildings, and across streets, Teton will guide me around low-hanging limbs or anything that is blocking the way. He will stop for me if there is a branch, or something, on the sidewalk, so I can find it and determine if we can step over it, or need to go around it.” Jones said staying on routine helps Teton do his job, but the guide dog also is adept at learning to traverse unfamiliar locations. “If we are somewhere new, it is my job to teach Teton the route in the beginning,” Jones said. “After a time or two, I expect him to know where we are going and to get us to our destination. Teton is extremely intelligent and usually has a route down after the first time.”
When Teton is in harness and “working” as a guide, Jones said he is all business. “I have to say that he is brilliant when he is in harness,” Jones said. But when Teton is not in harness, he is a much more playful pooch. “Out of harness, he is more like Marmaduke,” Jones said. “Teton is a playful and rambunctious boy when he is not in harness. When Teton is not in harness, he is just a dog, and has a tendency to not want to listen. “Soon to be 10, he seems to have not realized he is not a toddler yet.”
When Teton is in harness, if he does slip off task, Jones knows how to refocus his companion. “If I feel him getting distracted, all I have to do is just use a very stern, ‘No,’ and he is right back to attention,” he said. While Teton does a lot of the work to get Jones safely to wherever he is going, Teton also relies on Jones to do his part in order to keep their travels successful. “When crossing streets, Teton depends on me to listen to traffic and to know when it is safe to cross the street,” Jones said. “I give him a forward command and we head across the street.” Sometimes when crossing a street, or in other potentially dangerous situations, Teton has to make crucial calls based on information Jones does not possess. “That is one of the times that he will disobey an order,” Jones said. “If I am getting ready to walk us out into harm’s way, Teton will disobey and won’t move.”
While some guide dog users may not want their dog to interact with other people and be social, Jones said he encourages Teton to be outgoing. “I figure there are enough barriers between myself and society as it is, and I am not going to create one with my dog,” he said. Teton loves his treats, which consist of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and carrots, as well as an occasional, all-natural treat. Additionally, and not un- expectedly, Teton is a huge fan of bones.
“I have one at work for him and then there are four or five laying around my house for him,” Jones said. “It can become a danger zone for someone that can’t see them lying on the floor. Those puppies hurt when you step on them.”