It's doggone therapy time! How Vandy is helping patients at Mary Free Bed

Dog helps rehab patients at Mary Free Bed

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Vandy loves her short walk to work at to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids. Vandy is a 3-year-old black lab trained to help assist in the rehabilitation of patients.

"Kind of a newer therapy in the realm of health and wellness." Angela Sochanek is a recreational therapist for Mary Free Bed Hospital she says Vandy loves her job. "She greets us all and literally has a smile on her face."

Vandy works to help patients with mobility needs and even helps improve breathing in spinal cord patients. "Because spinal cord injuries affect the muscles that support breath, so having them blow bubbles to Vandy helps them helps build up that strength and endurance," said Sochanek.

Today, Vandy is working with 25-year-old Brandon McElhenie who was injured in a UTV accident on Silver Lake Sand Dunes. "His injury has affected his hands and so grasping the ball is a little difficult and so we'll use some different equipment to throw the ball out further," Sochanek explained.

"When I first started I didn't have much hand function at all," said McElhenie. "I'd try to throw the ball and it wouldn't go well. But throughout the process my hand functions gotten way better and we can actually play catch and we even play cards."

McElhenie adds while playing catch is fun, it doesn't even come close to playing cards with Vandy. "She points out if she has it or not or if she doesn't have it she tells you know.

"It's awesome."

Vandy is the first dog trained for rehabilitation therapy by Paws With A Cause. Recreational therapist Brie Taylor explains how her job is much different than social therapy dogs. "Specifically trained to do certain tasks in order to help those patients become more functionally independent," she said.

Her therapy sessions last about 20 minutes and she does get an afternoon break. "She has her own room and a special dog house that was built for her and we shut the door and turn the lights down so she can really decompress," Taylor continued.

Vandy actually lives with one of the therapists, so she comes to work and goes home with her dad every day.

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