Providence Queen of the Valley Medical Center (the Queen) recently became the second hospital in the organization’s Northern California region to begin offering canine companionship to patients. Trudy, a three-year-old yellow Labrador facility dog at the Queen’s Outpatient Therapy Clinic, is available to provide comfort, interaction and motivational support to occupational and physical therapy patients at the hospital. Many patients, and caregivers, have found that visits from Trudy are uplifting, motivational, and decrease their anxiety.
“Trudy encourages patients recovering from a stroke to pet or play fetch with her for arm strength. Playing Tug-O-war with patients improves strength and balance as well,” said Lynne Hooley, an occupational therapist and Trudy’s handler at the Queen. “Sometimes kids will apply non-toxic nail polish to Trudy’s nails to enhance their fine motor coordination skills. She’s like their model; she will patiently lay there and help them learn these skills. Trudy can teach patients to do things that we humans can’t!”
Trudy’s been working with patients at the Queen since February 2020 thanks to Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that provides expertly trained service dogs to people with disabilities and professionals working in various healthcare settings, free of charge. Trudy’s been specially trained to work with handlers in a facility setting. She and her handler, Lynne, graduated from the organization’s service dog training program and had over two years of training.
For pediatric patients like seven-year-old Stella DaSilva, who has cerebral palsy, Trudy fosters independence by motivating and inspiring her to complete therapies that, prior to her time with Trudy, she didn’t want to do. And while that technical aspect of Stella’s therapy is important, Stella’s mom says it’s the sheer pleasure Stella shows while working with Trudy that makes such a huge difference in their time together.
“There’s no love like the love of a dog,” says Kristin DaSilva. “Trudy genuinely loves Stella and wants to please her every time they work together. And Stella loves Trudy. It’s been a blessing.”
According to Therapy Dogs United, the key benefits of a facility dog are to, “encourage physical movement, verbal and nonverbal communication, and improved social behavior.” Trudy has been expertly trained in 40 commands to help calm and motivate patients to reach their goals. Examples of commands include asking patients overcoming a stroke to pet Trudy, asking an orthopedics patient to pick up a Trudy bone, or encouraging children to play tug of war with Trudy to improve strength and balance or painting Trudy’s nails.
As many dog owners know, four-legged friends have a miraculous healing power on people. They help lower stress hormones, bring down blood pressure, and help us take a break from our immediate problems.
Stephanie Rivera’s daughter, Sophia, is another pediatric patient working with Trudy. She has Down syndrome and has difficulty communicating. Since working with Trudy, however, Sophia has been more animated, and Stephanie has seen a difference in her ability to communicate physically when with Trudy.
“It’s been awesome. Sophia loves dogs and she is so happy when she’s with Trudy that she wants to do everything,” says Stephanie. “If we drive by the hospital on days we don’t have therapy, Sophia lets me know. Trudy is so sweet. She has great love for children.”
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