A 9-year-old golden retriever named Casper has spent his entire life helping others.
Casper, a therapy dog, has been spreading love and happiness at the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, where the young patients are often confined to their rooms. When they grow weary, the doctors and nurses know it’s time to send Casper in, CNN reported.
In November, Casper’s handler, Lisa Kinsel, noticed he couldn’t stand or walk properly and that his left side was weak. She soon learned that Casper had suffered a stroke, stemming from a blood clot in his brain.
Despite a fleet of therapy dogs at the hospital, Casper is the star. Kinsel described him as a “big sponge.”
“I think that’s what makes him work so well with the patients,” she said. “He knows that the child is maybe anxious, maybe in pain, and so when he’s there to help them, he sort of soaks that all in. And it helps eliminate their stress.”
As soon as his service vest is strapped on, Casper knows its time to get to work. As a full-time hospital employee, he even has his own badge.
Patients are given small, plush versions of Casper, complete with a replica of his green service vest. Not only is he integral to the patients’ wellbeing, the hospital staff relies on him too.
“That was one of the things we really didn’t think about when we started this,” Kinsel said. “It was all about the patients and families. And then more and more, we were finding that the staff were calling and saying, ‘We’ve had a really rough day in Intensive Care today. Will you please bring him up? Because the staff need to see him.’ ”
As Casper recovers from the ramifications of his stroke, he’s been doing physical therapy with Dr. Kimberly Neff at Georgia Veterinary Rehab.
“We don’t know what predisposes dogs to strokes, just like we don’t know for humans,” Neff said. “Of all the things neurologists see, it’s not that common in dogs.”
Neff is working with Casper to help him regain muscle strength on his left side. Part of the therapy include training on an underwater treadmill, which provides exercise without putting too much pressure on his joints. To keep him motivated, vets swipe a glob of peanut butter on the glass.
Casper’s hospital work has been put on hiatus until he grows stronger.
Here we come, 2017! pic.twitter.com/qdiW05pDe2
— Children's (@childrensatl) December 30, 2016
On one short visit to the hospital, he was too weak to walk in, so his friends in the radiology department brought out his usual treat to the curb: cooked egg yolks.
Casper’s condition has been improving, and he recently celebrated his 9th birthday at the hospital. He was able to make his way around the lobby as staff members sang to him.
Casper is expected to make a full recovery.
“Physically, you’d never know anything happened,” Neff said. “Dogs really are incredible.”