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Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation Welcomes New Facility Dog to Inpatient Therapy

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Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation today announces its newest employee, an adorable four-legged friend named Peru. The 3-year-old Golden Retriever serves as the inpatient rehabilitation hospital’s first facility dog, trained by Canine Companions, to support her handler, rehabilitation psychologist, Heather Tropiano, Psy.D.

Since September 21, 2020, exactly one year ago today, Peru, and Dr. Tropiano have worked on her employee first-year goals to:

  • Acclimate to the rehab environment
  • Build endurance to work up to 3 hours/day
  • Form relationships with other Physical, Occupational and Recreational Therapists to support their treatment plans with patients

Peru has met and exceeded her goals and is excitedly welcomed as an official team member among her fellow rehabilitation colleagues.

In my role, I address concerns with patients around mood, changes in cognition, and pain that can be barriers to recovery, states Dr. Tropiano. Peru is a positive distraction to defuse these barriers, creating a safe space for them to open up and be more communicative. She enables me to better assess and treat patients, makes it enjoyable for patients, and encourages creativity and collaboration for the treatment team to do the meaningful work they do as well.

Facility Dog, Peru, with her handler, Dr. Heather Tropiano with Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation, after their training together with Canine Companions.

A recent patient experienced a motor vehicle collision and suffered multiple spinal and sternal fractures. After consistently working with the facility dog, the patient was asked how Peru had helped to which the patient stated, not only did Peru help me to not focus on my pain, but she made me focus on what I could do despite it. Her involvement in games and exercises made me push myself to move more, focus, and try harder. Before I knew it, I was standing confidently without having to hold on to my walker.

Facility dogs engage in extensive and focused training to learn more than 40 commands so they can work with individuals toward specific treatment goals. Facility dogs differ from therapy dogs because they are working dogs, making them an active part of treatment. They must also return for follow-up assessments and receive special certification through a national standardized test. Handlers must complete a two-week, full-time training course as well.

Heading into Peru’s second year of employment, Dr. Tropiano has set goals to quantify and measure success with patients through research to better understand how patients excel beyond psychological and physical barriers from their work with Peru.

For over 46 years, Canine Companions has been enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing more than 7,000 assistance dogs with program graduates, including more than 385 dogs with military veterans and more than 2,600 active teams nationwide.

Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation is a faith-based network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient rehabilitation clinics that span Montgomery County, Maryland. Our team of premier providers and certified medical experts provide one-on-one and team-based care that helps people reclaim their lives following illness, injury, or chronic conditions. Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation inpatient hospitals are fully accredited by The Joint Commission, with Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accredited specialty programs for amputations, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke.

Canine Companions provides expertly-trained service dogs to adults, children, and veterans with disabilities at no charge. Established in 1975, Canine Companions has six training centers across the country. The largest non-profit provider of service dogs, Canine Companions is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people.