It appears dogs can be more than man’s best friend – they can also give hope to patients and help them heal from illnesses or injuries.
Mercy Hospital Springfield occupational therapist, Lindsi Johnson, recently received an assistance dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Johnson was placed with Facility Dog, Niles IV, a male black Labrador Retriever. Niles IV works with Johnson in the occupational therapy department participating in treatment sessions by retrieving items patients throw, playing tug of war, participating in balance activities and providing emotional support. “He will be an excellent motivator to increase participation and boost morale. In addition, I believe he will give people hope,” Johnson shared.
Johnson and Niles IV graduated together after completing an intense two week Team Training course at the North Central Region of Canine Companions, located in Delaware, Ohio. During Team Training, students are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them effectively. The dogs are trained for two years, learning 40 commands before they are ready to be placed as working dogs. The dogs, their training and ongoing follow-up support are all provided free of charge.
Johnson was joined at Team Training by co-worker, Caitlin Buening, who will be Niles IV’s co-handler at the hospital. Patients that Niles IV will work with include those with spinal cord and brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Canine Companions for Independence is the nation’s first and largest non-profit provider of trained assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities. Established in 1975, Canine Companions is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and quality and longevity of the matches it makes between people and dogs. There is no charge for the dog, its training and ongoing follow-up services. For more information, visit cci.org or call 1-800-572-BARK.