SAINT MATTHEWS, Ky. — A dog named Gavin, one of 10 facility dogs, is the newest member to join the Heel Dog, Heal program at Norton Healthcare.
At Norton Hospital, the 3-year-old golden Labrador retriever works with Rachel Dawson, a child life specialist, to help patients in the adult and children’s emergency department.
“As a facility dog, he helps to meet therapeutic goals for patients, families, and staff,” said Dawson, who is also Gavin’s handler. “We’re helping to meet patient goals, whether that’s getting patients up and walking, helping with patients’ pain management, or helping them normalize the hospital environment.”
Dawson said Gavin provides patients with a level of comfort humans cannot offer. “Dogs communicate with people in different ways, and he can get people to open up in ways that I can’t,” said Dawson.
Gavin has been training to do this specialty since he was ten months old. He was trained with the Paws with Purpose non-profit organization in Louisville.
Dawson said that it takes a certain kind of dog to make it through training. The main criteria are their ability to interact with people, remain calm, and overall temperament.
“Gavin lays on the hospital bed with people, including the stretchers in the ER, so he needs to be able to be calm and focused,” said Dawson.