GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The team at Mary Free Bed is welcoming a new "dog-tor" to their therapy lineup—a golden retriever named Faith!
3-year-old Faith has been working with Paws with a Cause, a Wayland-based nonprofit that trains and places assistance dogs, for two years. Now, she'll join Vandy, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever that serves as an Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) dog at Mary Free Bed.
Both Vandy and Faith are AAT dogs and can help patients feel more comfortable or encouraged during therapy.
“Vandy and Faith motivate and encourage patients to open up in ways they otherwise wouldn’t,” said Maria Besta, manager of Mary Free Bed’s recreational therapy department. “Their presence alone can lift the spirits of patients who need some encouragement to keep going. They help patients reach rehabilitation goals and provide a little extra hope.”
Meet Faith, the new therapy dog at Mary Free Bed
As AAT dogs, Vandy and Faith are trained to help multiple people at one time. While the dogs work with trained recreational therapists, they can also help patients going through physical, occupational and speech-language therapy.
The dogs can help patients by listening for verbal commands, being brushed or playing fetch. This allows patients to work on motor skills, mobility, endurance and emotional wellbeing. Vandy and Faith can also provide encouragement for patients to walk a bit further or work on sitting up on their own.
Mary Free Bed officials say Vandy even knows how to play cards with patients, which helps improve their hand dexterity.
“Adding Faith to our team has been amazing,” Besta said. “An additional AAT dog allows us to provide more care to more patients in a way that humans can’t.”
To celebrate Faith joining the Mary Free Bed team, a meet and greet will be held Wednesday from 10-11 a.m. at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Attendees can learn more about Paws With a Cause and meet both Vandy and Faith.
Since Vandy and Faith are considered to be working, visitors are asked not to pet them without permission.
For more information on the Mary Free Bed AAT team, click here.
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