On a weekly basis, Dr. Monica sees more than 14 kids and young adults at Heartly House for therapy dealing with trauma.
“[Kids who have experienced domestic violence in the home, sexual assault, child abuse, neglect…So the kids that I work with, their brains have been traumatized,” Dr. Monica explained.
Dr. Monica admits these topics are heavy ones, but helping her reach through to these clients is 3-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever mix, Pandy.
“She joined us about a year ago and she’s amazing. She’s so amazing with the kids. She does things with the kids that I could never do with the kids,” Dr. Monica said.
During sessions with clients, Pandy steps in not only adding a cuteness factor, but she helps put kids at ease just by putting her weight onto their laps and laying with them.
“They think they’re just snuggling, but actually Pandy is providing regulation to their sympathetic nervous system. That’s allowing them to feel grounded faster than just doing more cognitive approaches,” Dr. Monica explained.
Kids are able to paint with Pandy, and she holds a brush in her mouth and moves her head around a canvas, and she even plays card games like Uno.
Around the office, she also helps open drawers, and close shut cabinets.
These skills are due to countless hours of training by national non-profit, Canine Companions for Independence.
“These dogs are like dogs with master’s degrees versus our pet dogs. These dogs have been trained with upwards of 40 different commands. They’ve been bred specially for their temperament and trainability,” explained participant program manager for the Northeast region of Canine Companions for Independence, Jessica Reiss.
Dr. Monica says she’s heard from clients that Pandy has taken a huge role in their recovery, and that kind of impact is priceless.
“Pandy is able to bring a deeper level of here. And she’s able to help me reach clients faster that before and so it’s been huge, absolutely huge,” said Dr. Monica.
Officials at Heartly House says grants and community fundraising have helped pay for the required training for Dr. Monica and Pandy.