In the month and a half that she's been a member of the Rehab Services team at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Luna has made a lasting impression on her colleagues and patients. "Patients love her," Luna's supervisor, Lisa Morgan, tells us. "The response from our patients so far has been, I don't want to say overwhelming, but it's almost been magical to see just how well they've taken to her."
Not bad for someone so new on the job. But then Luna isn't just any member of the Mayo team. Luna is a facility dog. And as La Crosse's WKBT-TV reports, she's the first such facility dog to grace the halls of Mayo Clinic Health system in La Crosse. "She's trained in over 40 commands, so she has all of the same skills and training as a service dog," Lisa Morgan tells us. "But she doesn't have the public accommodations that a service dog would have because she's assigned to a specific facility."
A specific facility that Morgan tells us Luna was, in essence, born to work in. "She comes to us from an organization called Canine Companions for Independence," Morgan says. "I call them the Mayo Clinic of service dog organizations, because they put a lot of research into providing the best possible dogs for people. They have their own breeding program specifically for this type of work, and they are the only service dog organization that provides their dogs free of charge."
Once a new pup is born, the training begins immediately, just as it did for Luna. "Her first two years of life were all about being exposed to the different sights, sounds and situations she might encounter in a facility like Mayo Clinic," says Morgan, who had to apply to be matched with Luna. "They looked at my home and work situation to make sure I'd be a good fit," she tells us. "Once I passed that, I had to go in for a weeklong class to be trained in using her," Morgan says, adding that every year the duo will have to be re-certified.
With all of that out of the way, Morgan and Luna are making an impact on patients. "We've been making regular rounds through our cardiac rehab department, where Luna will go on walks with patients," Morgan says. "We also round over in the cancer center where Luna carries a basket of treats for patients. She's also been with some end-of-life patients already and has participated in exercise programs by bringing lightweight dumbbells to patients while they do their exercises."
Morgan tells us Luna's been able to mix in some fun and games with her patients as well. "She's played corn hole with a patient," she tells us. "He'd toss the beanbags and Luna would bring them back to him. She's also pulled one of our pediatric patients on a scooter and handed him puzzle pieces as he worked on a puzzle."
As Luna settles into her new facility, Morgan tells us her role will expand. "We're just getting started," she says. "Luna's been a great ambassador for Mayo Clinic, and we have some meetings coming up to discuss her involvement in some very specific activities in other areas of Mayo Clinic, as well, that I think will add a whole new dimension to the care we provide to our patients."
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Tags: Canine Companions for Independence, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Practice story