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Meet Kobe, Rogers’ new four-legged teammate

08/15/23 05:00:pm
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Kobe, a two-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, is making quite the splash on the Oconomowoc campus.

Recently the recipient of many treats and hugs at a meet-and-greet at the Ladish Co. Foundation Center, Kobe is a full-time experiential therapy assistant for the newly launched Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) program.

“CAI is different from traditional pet therapy programs in that it contains goal-oriented, structured interactions for the purpose of improving patients’ health and wellness,” says Deana Grall, manager of experiential therapy and one of Kobe’s handlers. “CAI will be used to help residents achieve an identified treatment goal and to address issues such as assertiveness, self-confidence, motivation, self-care, and contamination.”

The program is being piloted in the residential treatment programs for adults and adolescents with OCD, anxiety, and depression.

Kobe came to Rogers in March from the Paws with a Cause (PAWS) custom training facility in Wayland, Michigan. PAWS has trained assistance dogs for 43 years, providing more than 3,000 dogs to people in 33 states. In 1986, PAWS helped create Assistance Dogs International (ADI), a worldwide coalition of organizations that train assistance dogs. Kobe completed PAWS’ foster puppy obedience and public access training, as well as advanced training in the PAWS Prison Partners Program. Upon returning from this program, he received an additional eight weeks of assessment and training to ensure he was ready to graduate.

“Our original vision was going to be achieved through the use of volunteer dogs,” she says. “However, that was limited to when they had time to visit. While still in early development, Stacey Basile, Foundation development and marketing manager, came across a news article about American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison getting a facility dog. She reached out to them and got us in contact with the handler there who was instrumental in getting us set up to start researching the potential of getting a facility dog for Rogers. We submitted several applications. We were told it could be anywhere between two to five years before the right dog came along. We got lucky and it was closer to a year from when we applied.”

Kobe is a “facility dog,” which means he’s a working dog that is specifically trained to help more than one person at places like Rogers. Unlike assistance dogs that serve one person, Kobe is trained to work with a handler to serve multiple people who need social interaction, recovery motivation, comfort, and/or a feeling of safety.

dogGroup1_tn.jpgKobe and his handlers, Deana and recreation therapist, Mariah Skindingsrude, recently tested and received their official certification as a PAWS facility dog team.

Data will be gathered for research on the impact to patient care, and from there, expansion to other programs may be considered.

Ongoing costs for Kobe, including veterinary care, food, grooming - and you guessed it, treats, are supported 100% by donors of the “Paws Against Pain” fundraising initiative. If you are interested in supporting this valuable program, contact the Foundation office to learn more.

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