Four-legged team member joins Sheltering Arms Institute

Four-legged team member joins Sheltering Arms Institute
Clara, Sheltering Arms Institute's new Canine Companions for Independence® Facility Dog. (Source: Sheltering Arms Institute)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Sheltering Arms Institute, in collaboration with VCU Health, has welcomed its newest four-legged team member, Canine Companions for Independence® Facility Dog, Clara.

Clara is a 2-year-old Lab/Golden Retriever mix that has been training since she was 8 weeks old. Clara will work with her handler, Dr. Cynthia Rolston, Director of Psychosocial Services and Inter-Professional Science, in helping patients.

“After being carefully matched with one another, Clara and Dr. Rolston spent the last two weeks working with professional Canine Companions instructors to prepare for their new roles,” a release said.

Clara, Sheltering Arms Institute's new Canine Companions for Independence® Facility Dog.
Clara, Sheltering Arms Institute's new Canine Companions for Independence® Facility Dog. (Source: Sheltering Arms Institute)

Training included intensive lectures, hands-on practice, simulations and multiple examinations.

“This is a new and exciting program for all of us, and I can’t wait to see how Clara helps our patients achieve independence,” Dr. Rolston said. “We will be working together as a team as we integrate Clara into patient therapy sessions at Sheltering Arms Institute.”

Sheltering Arms Institute says Clara has already settled into her new role and is bringing smiles to patients' faces.

“We have full confidence Clara will be an exceptional facility dog for Sheltering Arms Institute and bring a host of skills and smiles to the halls daily. She will assist the patients with their therapies, help patients practice their activities of daily living, and bring an added psychological assist,” said Debra Dougherty, Northeast Region Executive Director for Canine Companions for Independence.

The institute says Canine Companions facility dogs can perform more than 40 commands that will help motivate patients will special needs.

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