If you visited National Neuro on any given weekday you would expect to see physical, occupational and speech therapists working with individuals with neurological impairments. What you might be surprised to see is a short- haired, four legged, furry blond canine, Yeats, greeting patients and helping with their therapy.
Yeats, a facility service dog and newest member of the therapy team, has been helping people who have suffered from a stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury and other neurological diseases achieve their therapy goals. While at work, Yeats helps challenge people’s balance by playing fetch while the individual performs a challenging balance task or in some cases plays tug to challenge arms strength, leg strength and balance all at the same time. Individuals working on improving their walking use Yeats as a visual cue to focus on and keep their head up instead of looking at the floor. Yeats’ presence helps individuals who have suffered a right brain stroke with resultant left neglect in which they involuntarily neglect everything in the left visual field. Placing Yeats on their left side and having them pet him and attend to him encourages the patient to pay attention to that visual field.
Yeats is often used to help people work on upper body function like opening up their hand to pet him, grasping and releasing a ball to play “get it” and his presence on the therapy table next to the client sometimes calms the patient making stretching more enjoyable. Yeats has even inspired a stroke patient to work on her hand function in a way that is meaningful to her recovery. Being an avid photographer prior to her stroke, she has worked in therapy on her standing balance and hand function in order to take pictures of Yeats in the gym.
Recently, Yeats helped a Parkinson’s patient work on her loud voice, by responding to her loud commands. Another client recently stated, “Coming to therapy and seeing Yeats makes my day!”
Not only does Yeats skillfully help individuals achieve their goals, but he motivates them during their sessions by cuddling next to them while they do their exercises on the mat. He has the ability to put a smile on every patients face each session and it is not uncommon for clients to insist on saying “hello” to Yeats before starting their therapy. He has truly become the most popular member of the therapy team and after a long working day, Yeats gets to take of is cape, play with the staff and just be a dog!