Shepherd Center Therapy Dogs

Therapy Dogs Lift Spirits and Aid in Paralysis Rehabilitation

Seventeen-year-old Christian Maynard broke vertebrae in his neck and back while pulling a dune buggy full of his friends behind a motorcycle. The bike unexpectedly hit gravel and flipped; the dune buggy then ran him over. Doctors believed he would never walk again.

Therapy Dog with Christian Maynard in Spinal Cord Injury Rehab

He arrived at the Shepherd Center, a nationally recognized rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, ten days after the accident. Maynard has been working with experts and two specially trained dogs for almost one year. He can now lift weights, work out, and stand up using parallel bars.

Shepherd Center Atlanta Spinal Cord Injury Rehab

Christian Maynard with Therapy Dog in Shepherd Center Spinal Cord Injury Rehab

Maynard says, “I’ll be walking soon.” He continues to say, “The doctors, nurses, and therapists at Shepherd were great. And so were the dogs. They really helped.” He says, “If not for the dogs, especially Frosty, I don’t know what I’d have done.” Maynard says, “I have four dogs at home. They gave me hope. They understand.”

Therapy Dogs at Shepherd Center

Therapy Dogs and Shepherd Center Nurses

Rebecca M. McWalters is a registered nurse who works and lives with Frosty the dog. She says dogs really do understand, and she added that, “Canines understand up to 40 words.”

Therapy Dog Bentley with Shepherd Center Nurse Rebecca McCallum McWalters

The non-profit company, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), offered to donate two therapy dogs to the Shepherd center. McWalters and fellow physical therapist, Beth Sasso, went to Orlando to train with the two dogs, Frosty and Bentley.

Therapy Dog Frosty with Shepherd Center Physical Therapist Beth Sasso

McWalters says, “They do more than just comfort patients.” She continues to say, “They help open relationships between us and the patients. I’ve seen patients who won’t lift their arms as much as their therapists believe they can. Then they raise their arms to touch Frosty. The patients just love the dogs, who are there all day helping us.”

Shepherd Center Therapy Dog Assisting

Therapy Dog at Shepherd Center

Maynard says that the canines are, “Always there, they are friends whether you are happy or sad, and they always make you smile. At first they thought I’d never walk again . But I’m close.”

Maynard’s father says the dogs deserve some credit for his son’s “remarkable” recovery, adding, “I don’t know how or why, but they help for sure.”

Shepherd Spinal Canine Companion Therapy Dog

Shepherd Center Therapy Dogs Frosty and Bentley Resting

A counselor in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Shepherd, Cheryl Linden, says she believes the dogs help because “therapy dogs bring comfort because they are not requiring something of the patient. The dog doesn’t look at you any differently or doesn’t judge you.”


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