Healing Virtually: Therapy Dog and Owner Adapt to Pandemic

Posted at 11:08 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 23:08:16-04

LANSING, Mich. — A therapy dog isn't letting coronavirus pause her mission to help others. "Laney the golden retriever" and her owner are taking their visits virtual. Alexa Liacko looks at the free sessions helping children, veterans, and families cope with COVID-19.

Laney the golden retriever is used to being loved on.

This therapy dog is part of the “paws for patients” program at the Osbourne Head and Neck Foundation in Los Angeles.

Aimee Galicia Torres, Laney’s owner shared that "patients need some sort of distraction if they’re feeling a lot of pain, so Laney is a great way to distract themshe was getting ready to visit sick patients around the world but because of COVID-19, we had to put a hold on that"

So, Laney’s owner, Aimee, brought the world—inside their home.

"Instead of putting a pause on the ‘paws for patients’ program, we decided to offer it virtually there are people who need a smile in their day it’s not just patients Laney visits. She’s a mutt!" Anyone can make a zoom appointment—for free.

Some kids just want to see the dog but Laney, as a therapy dog, her main skill is to provide compassion and empathy and be in tune to people’s needs and Laney knows just how to show off for the camera. "As soon as she knows the lights go on and I'Il have a camera, she stands behind the backdrop and sits and smiles, she’s very sassy and poses."

Some visits are filled with dress-up costumes but for veterans like Jimmy Harris the calls are a powerful release.

Jimmy Harriss is a veteran and Laney’s client who served in the Army National Guard in Egypt and Romania for a year. "Vets you know, they see horrible things in the military, in combat, and it can mess with someone’s mind, so i think the connection with an animal really brings a calmness to someone’s mind."

That escape--sorely needed by so many right now.

Aimee Galicia Torres explained that she’s able to help people build those connections up they might have lost touch with because of COVID-19, but even when this pandemic ends Aimee says she and Laney will continue this new kind of healing—a healing Aimee has felt firsthand.

I lost my dog a year and a half ago and I got Laney last year. "Dogs have always given me help and have given me hope during difficult times, and i wanted to be able to bring that to people because their mission is like a good chew toy--too precious to ever give up." "If we can just bring hope to people then we did our job."

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