Carla, a Clinical Manager at PeaceHealth in Oregon, welcomed Kelly, a Facility Dog trained by Dogs for Better Lives, into her world earlier this year. Little did she know, Kelly would become an extraordinary force for positivity at work and at home. Jessica, an Occupational Therapist, also welcomed Kelly to PeaceHealth as co-handler and incorporates Kelly into many of her sessions working with children and adolescents.
Carla recently shared her experiences with Kelly since placement and talks about the ways Kelly has made an immeasurable impact on everyone in his path.
A colleague had a Facility Dog from Dogs for Better lives, and I saw first-hand the positive difference this dog made in the lives of our patients and our staff members. He was an integral part of our work team so when the colleague left PeaceHealth to work for another organization, Tucker, the facility dog was greatly missed. Knowing Tucker, I knew there was a big difference between a Facility Dog trained through DBL versus a pet-assisted therapy dog, so I started the application process.
I was very excited and a bit nervous when I heard that Kelly would be placed with me. I wanted to make sure I was ready for the commitment I knew would be involved. When I first saw pictures of him, I immediately fell in love with him and couldn’t wait to meet him.
Everyone loved Kelly when he came into our home. He instantly became best friends with our very anxious rescue dog, Andie, helping her with his enthusiasm and confidence. Staff at work were also very excited about Kelly’s arrival but were able to curb their enthusiasm to give Kelly space to be a professional.
Kelly has his own Outlook calendar so other staff can request him if they know a patient might benefit from his presence.
Kelly at Work
Kelly has had an impact in so many ways at work. He helps clients feel safe and comfortable during sessions and provides a calming influence. I have many clients who have had difficulty opening up in session, or who become dysregulated when talking about difficult topics. Having Kelly in session provides the client a way to help regulate these emotions.
Clients seem to really appreciate Kelly’s “Settle” task. Clients have used this skill to help them soothe and regulate. Also, it turns out talking about things is just easier when you are cuddling a Kelly.
Supporting Everyone in his Path
Kelly’s impact goes beyond the patients. Jessica shared that she recently had a mom get very emotional after seeing her son interact with Kelly. Kelly was in “settle” and kiddo laid down on Kelly to listen to his heart and breathing. Mom stated that she could see the tension and anxiety leave his body. His shoulders came down, his breathing slowed, and he was so at peace. This inspired his family to look at getting a service dog for their son.
Jessica often gets down on the floor with him between clients for a cuddle. He also encourages her to get up, get moving, and get away from my computer whether it be for sniff walks or potty breaks.
The rest of the staff have also benefitted from Kelly’s work at the clinic. PeaceHealth recently announced some big changes that will affect a large group of people including our dedicated kitchen staff. We were able to schedule a “session” with the kitchen staff and Kelly. They were able to come and interact with Kelly and see his tasks, touch, and settle. They were so grateful for this moment of levity and joy. Looking forward to seeing Kelly is the highlight of coming to work for many staff members.
I have also heard clients and their families say Kelly is the highlight of their visit.
Kelly makes receiving mental health care something that people look forward to and helps reduce anxiety in a way that only can happen with a Facility Dog. Kelly has exceeded our expectations, and he’s such a valued member of our team.
Facility Dogs are trained to do specific, skilled tasks and placed with working professionals or volunteers to help support them in their work with vulnerable populations and persons with disabilities (physical, mental, cognitive, sensory, or developmental). Learn more about Facility Dogs and apply to receive a dog for your workplace: dogsforbetterlives.org/facility-dogs