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Destin rescue dog becomes therapy star at local rehabilitation center

A once-homeless puppy has found her calling as a therapy dog, bringing joy and comfort to patients and staff at HCA Florida Healthcare’s Northwest Florida Rehabilitation Center in Destin.
Source: Dog Harmony

A once-homeless puppy has found her calling as a therapy dog, bringing joy and comfort to patients and staff at HCA Florida Healthcare’s Northwest Florida Rehabilitation Center in Destin.

Chloe, a 65-pound reddish-brown dog with likely pit bull heritage, was rescued from the streets of northwest Florida and spent more than six months in shelters before being adopted.

  • Now, at age six, she has become an integral part of the rehabilitation center’s therapy program.

Nancy Bown, CPDT-KA of Dog-Harmony and an evaluator for Intermountain Therapy Animals, recognized Chloe’s potential and encouraged her and her owner to become a certified therapy dog team. In 2023, they achieved this goal through Dog-Harmony.

At the rehab center, Chloe assists with physical therapy sessions, helping patients with repetitive arm movements through commands like sit, stay, or fetch. Her presence has been noted to have a calming effect on patients, with one instance showing a visible drop in a patient’s blood pressure during an interaction with Chloe.

  • “The staff have to give Chloe a hug, pet, or scratch and they tell us which patients in specific rooms would love a visit from Chloe each week,” said Sue Marks, a fellow volunteer at the rehab center. “A smile after a visit from Chloe goes a long way. She is so well-behaved.”

Chloe’s impact has not gone unnoticed. In February 2024, the rehab center staff awarded her the title of Employee of the Month in recognition of her contributions.

Dog-Harmony, the non-profit organization that certified Chloe, reports an increasing demand for qualified therapy dog teams in healthcare settings across northwest Florida. The organization provides training and coordinates placements of therapy dogs in healthcare facilities.

A 2023 survey by Dog-Harmony found that 31% of 895 respondents in the region consider animal-assisted therapy “very important.” The organization is seeking support to expand its therapy dog program to additional healthcare institutions in the area.

Those interested in supporting Dog-Harmony’s therapy dog program can visit www.dog-harmony.org/donate or vote for Chloe in the ‘Bark in Style’ photo contest running through August 1, 2024. Information about becoming a therapy dog team is available at www.dog-harmony.org/therapy.

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