Two years ago, the Central Recovery Center* (CRC) on the South 9th Street campus had empty wall space crying for some decoration. In the words of Jessica Ambrose, team lead at the CRC and Walk-In Unit, “it can get a little bland here.”
Instead of filling it with art, Brenda Arms, former CRC clinician now team lead for Adult Diversion and Stabilization (ADAS), turned the emptiness into an inspirational wall filled with quotes.
“It quickly became a wall of employees’ dogs,” Ambrose says.
The first pet Ambrose posted was from a running joke among CRC colleagues about Scout, the CRC’s “adopted” therapy dog (whose real name is Cricket and belongs to former senior manager Matt Cotter). The wall quickly spiraled as other colleagues began adding their pets to the collage. The wall art grew to include cats and even a chicken. Tony Beltran, Pittsburgh Mercy’s president and CEO, contributed a photo of his cat to the collage.
“I’d rather have too many animals than not enough,” Ambrose says.
Ambrose recently revamped the wall to focus on each individual pet. Each animal has an inspirational quote posted beside its photo, along with its name, but the owners are not identified for a reason.
“The persons served like to guess who belongs to each staff member,” Ambrose explains.
She says one man who received services at the CRC told her, “I just love these quotes. I really, really like this board.”
At the center of the collage is “The Starfish Story,” the tale of a man who walked along the beach and encountered a young boy picking up starfish that had washed ashore and throwing them back in the ocean. When asked why he bothered when he could not save them all, he replied that he could save that one.
Ambrose has not given up on her attempts to have a therapy dog visit with her colleagues. And she points out why she believes persons served relate so well to the animals on the wall.
“They are innocent and give unconditional love,” she says. “They don’t know your past. They just want to be loved. And they are so soft and cuddly and cute!”
*Our Central Recovery Center (CRC) is a 12-person program which is designed as an alternative to jail for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. To learn more, visit https://www.pittsburghmercy.org/behavioral-health/services-for-adults/#crc.