Erin Bischoff from New Jersey is a senior student at Hasbrouck Heights High School and uses a wheelchair due to her rare bone disease. Now she stars as Dorothy in a school production of "Wizard Of Oz" along with her Service Dog, Gauge, who plays Toto. Via: NBC New York
Meet High School student, Erin Bischoff, and her service dog, Gauge.
According to NBC New York, Bischoff has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease which forces her to use a wheelchair. Four years ago, she received the 6-year-old golden retriever as a mobility dog by the Canine Assistants, a non-profit in Alpharetta, Georgia: "We are definitely a team. We help each other. We're partners to put it simply. He is a mobility dog, so he does physical tasks like retrieving items, opening doors, pulling my chair, crowd control (he blocks people from bumping me)," Bischoff told PEOPLE.
As part of this sweet partnership, Erin has included Gauge in her performances throughout high school and middle school.
Toto was the golden's largest role yet. In the past, Gauge joined his owner on stage, but didn't have a part of his own. So when Bischoff was casted as the lead in The Wizard of Oz, a role she says she did not expect to get, she and her castmates pulled together to turn Gauge into the perfect Toto.
The cast and crew worked with the actor playing the Cowardly Lion to make sure he didn’t startle Erin’s dog
"We had to work with the actor playing the Lion, making sure he's not making contact with [the dog] when he's rushing Erin, because the dog's natural reaction is to protect Erin," director and drama club advisor Paula Jacobs noted.
Gauge’s owner feels that the service dog did a great job stepping up to the new challenge
"I wasn't used to having him be an actual character so it was a bit harder to work with since Toto has a lot of different cues and entrances and exits throughout the show," Bischoff said of the process. "But we worked out how we would get him to understand his cues with time, training, compromise, and modification." she told People.