So you’ve heard of service dogs, but have you ever heard of therapy dogs? Health care professionals have noted the therapeutic effect that dogs can have on people, including lowering blood pressure, relieving stress, and raising moods. When combined with physical/occupational therapy, a dog can help achieve goals including gaining motion in limbs and fine motor control. At Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehab, they recently had the opportunity to have a “Comfort Dog” from Holy Lutheran Church come and visit their kids. The kids were ecstatic, and the parents were fascinated to see how therapy can be used with a dog. A therapy dog makes hard work fun by wrapping exercise into a fun activity.
The Comfort Dog Ministry at Holy Cross Lutheran Church began in early 2009. They currently have three Comfort Dogs on staff: Prince, Barnabas, and Isaiah. The dogs benefit young children, older adults, or anyone in between, including people with special needs. “What the dogs offer are the gifts of unconditional love and acceptance. They don't judge based on a person's age, race, abilities or disabilities. The dogs impart hope and encouragement to those who need it, and have an uncanny way of perceiving who needs their gift of comfort the most. They also provide their handlers the opportunity to offer emotional and spiritual care for the sick, the lonely, the frightened, and the hurting.” said Pastor Tim Engel. The Holy Cross Comfort Dog Ministry is part of a larger network through Lutheran Church Charities, headquartered in Addison, Illinois. This network includes about 70 dogs serving in churches in 16 states. All of the Comfort Dogs are golden retrievers who are bred and trained for this work.
Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehab Center continues to grow its programming, providing innovative techniques to optimize each child’s potential to grow stronger and conquer developmental milestones. A child with high tone (tight muscles) may struggle greatly to maintain a “Hands and Knees” position, but with the therapy dog, a child is able to maintain the position twice as long while petting the dog, giving his physical therapist time to provide balance challenges to increase core strength. Another child with significant speech delays naturally begins to coo or giggle while playing with the therapy dog, which the speech therapist can help the child stretch that sound into a word. Jacob’s Ladder depends on a small army of donors and volunteers to make programs available to all children. If you are interested in volunteering and supporting programs like therapy dogs or aquatics therapy, please visit their website at www.jacobskids.org.