‘She’s precious’: Clara the facility dog warms hearts at Sheltering Arms Institute

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GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– The Sheltering Arms Institute has welcomed a new facility dog to the team. The new four-legged team member started on Monday, September 21st as a new addition to incorporate into patient therapy sessions.

2-year-old Clara is warming the hearts of her patients and she has only been working at the Sheltering Arms Institute for a few days. Pamela Laird is a patient at the institute who got to speend a week with the dog.

“You can’t always go by dog people when it comes to dogs but I have to say she’s precious,” said Laird.

Laird has three dogs at home and believes that Clara is friendlier than all of hers combined. She began working with Clara after she fell and hit her head which resulted in the loss in part of her memory. According to Laird, the dog took great care of her and was helpful when the two spent time together.

“She was so careful with me and interested in me… only the way a dog can be,” said Laird.

Sheltering Arms Institute Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Cindee Rolston submitted an application two years ago to Canine Companions for Independence to request a facility dog to join the rehabilitation team and to help with the patients. The non-profit provides expertly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities at no charge. Dogs are trained from eight weeks to 18 months by volunteer puppy raisers. Dr. Rolston traveled to the Northeast Region Training Facility in Medford, New York on Labor Day. Dr. Rolston participated in team training for eight days and was given Clara on her second day of training. The dogs are brought to a separate facility to work with professional trainers in their specific field of work.

Clara was trained specifically as a facility dog. In addition, the Labrador and Golden Retriever cross responds to service animal commands.

“She can open things, close things, pick things up, bring them back to individuals,” said Rolston.

According to Dr. Rolston, Clara is sweet natured, kind and gentle.

“When it comes time to get involved in like a therapy activity, she’s energy she’s focused, she’s upbeat and really there for our patients in ways that humans can’t,” said Rolston.

Clara will work by Dr. Rolston’s side to help enhance patients’ daily lives. She will help with their daily activities and bring a psychological assist.

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