GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids is teaming up with Paws With A Cause to harness the healing power of dogs.
Bob Johnson is among the patients whose therapy now includes visits with the black Labrador retriever named Vandy.
Three weeks ago, Johnson couldn’t even stand.
“(The) guy was going about 60 (mph) and smashed me. Whenever I woke up, the firefighters were happy that I was alive. Everyone was screaming out, ‘He’s alive, he’s alive!’” Recounted Johnson.
The late July crash left Johnson with two broken legs, a broken arm and a broken wrist.
“It’s going to be a hell of a journey. And after, that it just got easier and easier,” said Johnson.
Johnson said it’s easier because of the supportive staff at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Vandy, a black Labrador retriever.
“She can make therapy a lot more fun for patients, make their goal more achievable,” said Maria Besta, manager of Mary Free Bed’s recreational therapy department.
After seeing how a dog trained in animal assisted intervention was helping patients at an Atlanta Hospital recover, Besta knew it would work in West Michigan. That’s how the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s partnership with Paws With A Cause was born.
“I almost did a backflip, I was so happy. I have a black lab at home and seeing Vandy was just an experience that I needed,” said Johnson, who can now walk.
Vandy helps in other ways, too. Patients regain fine motor skills by giving her treats, mobility by grooming her, and strength by holding a weighted hula hoop for her.
“Vandy just helps me with wanting to walk more. As you see, she’s very good at that. Black labs are the best.”
Soon Johnson will see his own black Labrador retriever; He expects to return home Friday.