Facility dog helps OT and PT patients regain strength at Sentara Obici Hospital

SUFFOLK, Va. - If you see a dog roaming the halls of Sentara Obici Hospital, he's not lost; he's just doing his morning rounds.

Bobby is the first Sentara Facility Dog and a motivator for patients in rehab. While most facility dogs like Bobby work in children's hospitals, his work targets adults, helping them achieve individual PT and OT clinical goals.

Amber McKee is a physical therapist and Bobby's "owner." Together, they help patients build core muscle strength and balance. But they couldn't do it without his other handler and occupational therapist, Kayla Ingerson. She and Bobby work on testing fine motor skills.

The trio is halfway into the six-month training program, and so far they have helped between 30 and 40 patients reach their therapy goals.

Phyllis Stoneburner, the Vice President for Patient Care Services said, "it's a tremendous asset to our program because Bobby becomes a partner in their care."

Before Bobby could could earn the prestige of being part of the team, he had to learn the tricks of the trade. Hero Dogs, a Maryland-based non-profit, first trained Bobby for pairing with a military veteran.

While he would have been a great pair for a veteran, the group also saw another future for him in the acute rehabilitation department.

"[It's amazing to see] the wealth of joy that he has brought to not just our patients, but our employees as well," said Rehab Team Coordinator Marquetta Reaves.

She hopes animal-assisted therapy will become an official feature of the SOH acute rehabilitation department.

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