Ava and Grace

Ava and Grace

Visitors to Cayuga Health System hospitals may find therapy dogs visiting patients at Cayuga Medical Center and helping physical therapy patients at Schuyler Hospital.

Laurie Williams and Ava of Enfield have been volunteers with PAWS for Friendship Inc. visiting Cayuga Medical Center patients since July 2018. Ava wears an aqua vest during her twice weekly visits and has her own business card for anyone who asks about the pet therapy program. They visit patients interested in talking to Laurie about dogs and meeting her 3-year-old, puffy-white Goldendoodle.

“Ava brightens the day for many patients and CMC employees, and that makes this so rewarding,” says Laurie, who is the local coordinator for PAWS for Friendship and evaluator for dog-owner teams interested in pet therapy.

Schuyler Hospital’s therapy dog, also named Ava, started her work during the fall in the outpatient physical therapy clinic where her owner, Katlynne Ray, PT, DPT, sees patients. Ava, a 3-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever serves several roles during her once a week visit.

“When kids come for therapy and see Ava, they relax and forget about their worries. For adults, I have Ava help,” Dr. Ray says. “Ava is also working side-by-side with me increasing participation and limiting stress within a treatment session. Ava really improves patient motivation and can double the number of exercises they do,” Dr. Ray says.

Dogs at both hospitals are evaluated for calm, gentle behavior and checked for current vaccination records. Some dogs, like Dr. Ray’s Ava, go through several months of obedience training before becoming a therapy dog.

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