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Transition to Rehab Management

Canine to the Rescue

Published August 16, 2012 12:42 PM by Karen Schiff

There has always been a special place in my heart for animals. Friends and family are well aware of this fact. With extra room in my house the past few years, it has become more obvious, as I have become a foster mom to many animals who were either abused, neglected or just abandoned. As a result of my weakness and compassion, I have been called a "foster failure," due to the fact that I cannot foster. I can accept this type of failure. It becomes difficult to leave for work, as my days are long, and my dogs in particular seem to miss me the most. The howling in the house begins as soon as I close the door behind me. Thankfully, my daughters can calm them down quickly, if for no other reason than to be able to go back to sleep.

At work, I often get a visit from our hospital's therapy dog, Pumpkin. He's a beautiful golden retriever that wears a badge and has a special affinity for Cheerios. He has four handlers at the hospital, all employees, that alternate shifts throughout the day to spread the benefits of pet therapy. Pumpkin knows where to go to get his doggy massage: the outpatient rehabilitation department. Many of our patients enjoy his presence.

Recently we called on Pumpkin's services for an elderly patient who voiced her sadness about her dog being put down within the past couple of months. Pumpkin came to her side and motivated her to persevere. As a major provider of therapy services for children in our county, we have called on Pumpkin to stimulate different skills that may not have been possible without his help. He is immune to the ear and tail tugging, and freely gives out kisses to anyone. Besides the patients benefitting from Pumpkin's presence, employees are quick to come up to him and engage in puppy talk during his visits. I can attest to this myself, as well as about 99 percent of the other staff in my department.

It seems like a natural progression for me to be a handler for Pumpkin. This is something I've always wanted to do. Outpatient rehabilitation would be the perfect place for Pumpkin to spend more time. Yes, in addition to running my own zoo at home and raising two teenage daughters, working full-time, playing tennis five out of seven days a week and studying for my doctorate, I'm happy to say that I may soon be able to help our patients even more by being a handler for Pumpkin. Keeping my fingers crossed!

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