Friday, January 15, 2010

Therapy Dogs in Action

My therapy dog colleagues who work with other kinds of clinicians have a much clearer job description. Take for example Rocky, a five year old golden retriever who works alongside a physical therapist.
An article in the Bellingham Herald talks about a young girl with schizencephaly, which is a rare disorder characterized by abnormal clefts in one or both halves of the brain. In order to help with the development of muscle coordination and strength, the young girl learns to move Rocky's leash from hand to hand as well as brushing his fur. The end goal of this exercise, along with others, is for her to learn muscle coordination, increase her ability to grasp and release, control her torso and posture, and build strength in her arms. Not a bad treatment outcome to get from hanging out and making a dog feel good!

Rocky also helps the young girl during painful exercises. Her muscles are very tight and with Rocky sitting on her, she stretches her hamstrings and repositions her pelvis. She ordinarily wouldn't tolerate this exercise, but with the help of the loving presence of Rocky, she is able to make it through the experience. Still not done working, Rocky is helping the girl learn to stand on her own. With the support of Rocky, the young girl practices standing with her hand or hip resting against the sturdy stable dog.

What a wonderful way to engage a young child in her treatment.

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