Bobby is a three-year-old lab trained to motivate physical and occupational therapy patients to perform challenging tasks. Physical therapist Amber McKee and occupational therapist Kayla Ingerson work with Bobby to provide patients with a joyful experience and positive outcomes.

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Facility dog Bobby motivates PT and OT patients at Sentara Obici Hospital

Sitting up on the side of the bed and leaning forward to pet the black lab Bobby's head, physical therapist Amber McKee's patient builds core muscle strength and balance. Same with standing up and fully extending a hand for Bobby to jump and touch with his nose. Open the zippered pouch on Bobby's vest, take out a piece of kibble and offer a treat to test fine motor skills for Occupational Therapist Kayla Ingerson. McKee and Ingerson are trained handlers for Bobby, the first Sentara Facility Dog, and a motivator for patients in rehab at Sentara Obici Hospital.

Most facility dogs like Bobby work in children's hospitals. A daily presence is unusual in acute care hospitals for adults. McKee, Ingerson and Bobby are two months and more than 30 patients into a six-month training program, prior to making animal assisted therapy an official feature of the SOH acute rehabilitation department. Bobby is 'owned' by McKee, who takes him home at night and brings him to work each morning. As joint handlers, McKee and Ingerson often take Bobby to see patients together to help achieve individual PT and OT clinical goals.

Hero Dogs, a Maryland-based non-profit, first trained Bobby for pairing with a military veteran. His genial nature and laser focus also make him ideal for work with hospital patients who need motivation for the hard work of physical and occupational therapy. From early indications, Bobby will be a presence at Sentara Obici Hospital for years to come.

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