Published on February 28, 2022

Peru headshot

Patient's Best Friend

Meet Peru, a golden retriever who serves as Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation White Oak’s facility dog.

PERU is trained by Canine Companions, an organization that places service dogs with people who have disabilities, to support her handler, rehabilitation psychologist Heather Tropiano, Psy.D.

Q: What is a facility dog?

A: Facility dogs like me help patients work toward specific treatment goals.

Q: How long have you been working with Adventist HealthCare Rehab?

A: I became an official member of the inpatient rehab team on Sept. 21, 2020, after a year of acclimating to the hospital environment. Now, Dr. Tropiano has set goals for me, and we are measuring my success in helping patients heal.

Q: How did you learn how to help patients?

A: I engaged in extensive, focused training for two weeks to learn more than 40 commands. During that time, Dr. Tropiano and I also learned how to work with one another and the best ways to utilize my abilities in a rehabilitation setting.

Q: What is your typical day like?

A: Dr. Tropiano and I check into Rehab White Oak in the morning. I practice my “push” command by summoning the elevator to the sixth floor, where I work. Dr. Tropiano plans my schedule. On a recent day, I started by spending 30 minutes playing ring toss with a patient while Dr. Tropiano assessed their progress. Next, I helped another patient use their stroke-affected hand to string beads.

At lunch, I go for a long walk around the hospital campus and complete a quick 5- to 10-minute training session on a new command. In the afternoon, I join Dr. Tropiano to help a patient who is having a hard time adjusting to a spinal cord injury. I am commanded to visit while the patient talks about adjusting to their new condition. I provide comfort in ways that humans sometimes cannot.

Before getting into the car to go home, I am rewarded with a few rounds of fetch outside!

peru commands

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