WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Chief Meteorologist Ross Janssen said goodbye to Millie “The Weather Dog” Friday morning.
(Storm Team 12 Chief Meteorologist Ross Janssen and Millie 'The Weather Dog')
The 14-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi has been by Ross’ side since she was a puppy.
“I moved to Wichita in 2004 right out of school, no intentions of having a house dog. My cousins who live in Oklahoma called me in November and said they had a litter of corgis and I should have one of them,” said Ross. “So there I am the next day, driving to Oklahoma. That's where it all started. I had no intentions of having a famous weather dog or anything like that.”
It’s no surprise that Millie stole the hearts of people across Kansas. She stole Ross’ heart right away.
“Within a couple of days of getting her, it just seemed natural to want to take her everywhere because she was so cute,” said Ross.
And soon, Ross began bringing her to work at KWCH.
“In the background, the cameras would catch the puppy, Millie, on camera. We didn’t think much about it until we got back to the newsroom and phones were ringing,” remembered anchor Michael Schwanke.
Anchor Roger Cornish finally responded to people’s inquiries during an Answerback segment.
One caller asked, “I’m wanting to know what that doggy’s name is that you got on there. I saw a doggy in there in the weather lab. I'd like to know the name of the weather doggy.”
Roger reported, “You did see a dog in the weather center! It was actually Ross Janssen’s dog Millie!”
And a star was born.
“I remember everyone around here was afraid of what management would say about having Millie on TV,” Ross remembered. “I think the managers were kind of in the neutral zone about it, thinking let's kind of see what happens.”
Ross said it happened by accident. He got a dog, she showed up on TV, and it just exploded from there.
“Once I started bringing her to the station and realized she was good around people and had a really great demeanor, then I started to push it a little more to see how far we could go with it.”
Ross started by bringing her to school talks.
“It’s just like having a mascot to relate to and it really gave kids that opportunity to relate to us,” said Michael.
Evening anchor Melissa Scheffler said, “Millie steals the spotlight. There's no question. Wherever you go, whether she's with you or not.”
At the Kansas State Fair every year, that’s one question anchors, reporters, and meteorologists alike would be asked over and over: where’s Millie?
“During her first trip to the State Fair, the gentleman at the gate said, ‘I'm going to lose my job over letting you bring this dog in. The rules are the rules. No dogs at the fairgrounds’,” Ross recalled.
But Ross got her in, and from then on, KWCH began getting a letter from the State Fair saying Millie was welcome. She was a hit.
“We knew where we fell in the pecking order. Millie was always on top,” said Michael.
Millie did so well around different people in different places. Ross said people came to life when Millie entered the room. He recalled one touching experience.
“There was a little girl, not very old, who was diagnosed with cancer. And one of the things she wanted toward the end was to see Millie. To see her face light up, and to think it was my dog that would bring so much joy to somebody, that's pretty incredible.”
Millie was family to all of us at KWCH.
“When I first came to work for KWCH eight years ago, I thought it was strange there was a dog walking around,” said Melissa. “But then I immediately understood, because she's such a positive presence for everyone in the newsroom.”
Sometimes the news is sad. We cover stories that break our hearts. Millie was always there to comfort us.
“Kind of a way of easing stress,” said Ross. “I definitely think there's a lot of value to having a dog in the workplace and she brightened the day for a lot of people.”
Millie did the same for people all across Kansas. People felt connected to her. Tears were shed at KWCH this week. Tears will surely be shed across the state. Millie will be missed.
“Millie definitely has changed my life forever. I never really thought I wanted a house dog, but it's truly like having a kid. Their unconditional love is something you can't find anywhere else,” said Ross.
“On your worst days, they're still excited to see you when you come home. You can't put a price tag on that. There's nothing else in this whole wide world that will love you like an animal will.”
“Some people say it’s a once in a lifetime thing. I can definitely say there won't be a single day that goes by that I won't think about Millie and all the memories that we made.”
Donations can be made in Millie's honor to LAPP – Lifeline Animal Placement & Protection.
Cards can be made to KWCH-12 Eyewitness News, 2815 E. 37th St. N., Wichita, KS 67219.