ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — After suffering a brain aneurysm, Linda Parks struggled to regain both her mobility and speech, but a special member of the St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital staff has helped in her recovery.
Parks, 38, of New Castle, is one of the first patients to have worked with Denny, a black Labrador and golden retriever mix, and the only four-legged staff member of the hospital's Bennett Rehabilitation Center.
The center, which provides intensive inpatient rehabilitation care for patients after they have suffered a stroke, spinal cord injury, amputation or other debilitating condition or injury, added the dog to its program in December.
Parks' mother, Becky Francis, 58, said her daughter's condition improved remarkably after working with the canine.
"I think that it is one of the best rehab programs they have got," Francis told The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1mw4OLp ). "She just kept her calm so she could concentrate."
Brittney Millspaugh Storms, a physical therapist at the Bennett Rehabilitation Center, is the primary handler for Denny, but she said other therapists can use the dog.
Denny, who was trained through the Indiana Canine Assist Network (ICAN), lives with Storms and works full time at the hospital.
Storms said the use of working dogs in medical settings is becoming more and more common, but there is a difference between service and therapy animals.
Service dogs are protected by the American Disabilities Act and live with their owners to provide physical and emotional support for a disability. These dogs are trained to only assist a specific individual with their daily living.
Therapy and facility dogs, however, are trained in performing specialized tasks with a variety of professionals and clients.
Denny is a facility dog, not a service dog.
She is specially trained to assist with specific physical therapy treatments and can help patients relax, provide patients with emotional support and help them to perform physical tasks.