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It's the Dog-gonedest Thing!

Vol. 17 •Issue 25 • Page 31
It's the Dog-gonedest Thing!

A golden retriever named Tangie makes therapy fun in Florida

Occupational therapy has "gone to the dogs" at this school-based setting in Deltona, FL. Meet the newest member of the therapy team from Easter Seals of Volusia and Flagler Counties. She is a beautiful golden retriever named Tangie.

Originally trained to do service work by New Horizons Service Dogs in Orange City, FL (a non-profit organization who provides trained service dogs for people with disabilities), Tangie didn't qualify for advance training. She was donated to me to use as a therapeutic tool in a school-based therapy setting where I work as a COTA. I really enjoy school-based therapy, and Tangie has made my job easier and even more enjoyable!

The children at Deltona Lakes Elementary School love this dog. She can help a child who is usually non-verbal by just being around. These kids often communicate more easily with her than with their same-age peers. Let's face it, animals give unconditional love and are non-judgmental.

Tangie also wears a special "ADL" vest that the kids work on with her. Fasteners are sewn on the vest that allow the children to work on self-care skills such as buttoning, snapping, zipping and tying. They are excited about working with the dog and will often work for a longer period of time if the activity is related to the dog.

Tangie also has been used in a multi-sensory activity during a therapy session when a few of the pre-kindergarten students got to bathe her. I used a storyboard to sequence this activity from start to finish. Each child had the opportunity to squeeze the water squirter attachment on the hose to get the dog all wet. Each child then had the opportunity to squeeze a little shampoo on her and then scrub her all over. Each child was able to participate in each step leading up to and ending with a rigorous towel drying and replacing her vest. There were a lot of suds and a lot of smiles during this session!

Tangie has also worked as a therapeutic tool in a SNF setting where therapy patients were given appropriate cuff weights on their wrists and were able to brush her from head to tail. Most therapy clients were happy and really enjoyed the interaction with the dog. When Tangie was placed in front of or to the side of the patient seated on a mat table, the activity was used as a therapeutic exercise to increase sitting balance/trunk stability. The patient reached out with brush in hand to wherever Tangie was, to give her a grooming. Stroke patients working on grasp and release worked with Tangie by grasping a ball and dropping it down to the floor — only to have it retrieved by an eager animal participant.

Adults with balance deficits could stand at the end of a hall and toss out a ball for the dog to retrieve. Human therapy staff stood by with a gait belt securely placed on the patient during the animal-assisted activities.

Physical therapists also got into the fun by having one of their patients hold Tangie's leash and lead her on excursions around the facility grounds varying from down a short hallway to outside on rougher terrain.

Many times people who came to the facility for short-term rehabilitation really were missing their own pets. Tangie provided many opportunities to lift their spirits and make them smile during an otherwise difficult time in their lives. The benefits of having pets and interaction with animals are many. Animal-assisted therapy can be an asset to a therapy team who is creative and energetic.

For more information:

Contact Kimberly Christian at

Kimberly Christian is employed by Easter Seals of Volusia & Flagler counties. She is currentlyworkingtoward earningan MSOT degree at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.


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