Four-legged therapist celebrates full year of helping kids

Four-legged therapist celebrates full year of helping kids

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - One year ago, Palmetto Health Children's Hospital welcomed everyone's favorite four-legged therapist through its doors.

Chiver, a 3-year-old yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, works as a therapy dog with outpatient physical and special therapy kids through Palmetto Health Children's Hospital.

Bethany Clark, a pediatric physical therapist and Chiver's handler, said it's been "nothing but good" since Chiver came on board.

"Some kids it just means they're more excited to come to therapy because they get to see their buddy Chiver," Clark said. "And for other kids, it's changed their whole dynamic completely."

Chiver has learned more than 70 different behaviors that helps him be useful to Clark during therapy sessions with kids who have various needs. For kids who have autism or anxiety problems, she said Chiver is able to provide a calming element to help kids make it through their sessions.

"If deep pressure is what they need, Chiver can help with that," Clark said. "Whether he's resting his head on their legs if they're a little kid giving them input that way, or if they need more he can lay his whole body across their legs to calm them down."

It changes the entire tone of the treatment, Clark said. Chiver can also act as a motivational figure to help other kids with physical disabilities perform difficult activities and tasks.

"We're having somebody kneel or hold a position, or do yoga positions which is hard, if you add Chiver to it where he's having to work and do something – whether it be play tug-o-war with them or retrieve a ball, or show how well he can wait for a treat while they're doing that activity, it keeps them engaged so much better."

We met Chiver as he was helping Clark in a therapy session with 2-year-old Alicia Rodriguez-Perez, who has Down Syndrome. Clark used Chiver in several different games with Alicia, including having the little girl throw a ball for Chiver to retrieve. Clark also had Alicia simply petting Chiver when she needed to get a handle on the little girl's frustration.

"With a lot of kids, he's just really motivating. Even some of the little babies where they cry and they have so much anxiety being away from their Mom… and you bring in a dog, which I think is just novel in this setting anyway, and they're like 'Oh, I'll do that!'"

PAALS – or Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services – helped match Chiver with Clark and the team at Palmetto Health in October 2016. Chiver celebrated his one-year anniversary with Palmetto Health with a party this morning, where staff showered him with gifts and love!

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