Peru can answer to dozens of commands and work with people toward treatment goals.

Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation recently announced its newest employee, an adorable four-legged friend named Peru. The three-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.

Peru and Tropiano have already been working together to acclimate to the rehab environment, build endurance to work up to three hours a day, and 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 welcomed as an official team member among her rehabilitation colleagues.

“In my role, I address concerns with patients around mood, changes in cognition, and pain that can be barriers to recovery,” Tropiano said. “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.”

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

About Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation

Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation is a faith-based network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient rehabilitation clinics in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States. Their team of premier providers and certified medical experts work hand-in-hand to provide individual and team-based care. It is something that helps people reclaim their lives following illness, injury, or chronic conditions related to amputation, brain trauma, spinal cord, stroke, musculoskeletal trauma, sports, work, cardiac, cancer, neurological conditions, and more.

Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation inpatient hospitals are fully accredited by The Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), with CARF-accredited specialty programs for amputations, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke.

The original version of this story was posted on the Adventist HealthCare news site.

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