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Shriners Children’s Lexington Adds Pet Therapy

For many patients with limb differences, finding someone to whom you can relate can be difficult. However, relating to his patients is exactly why Shriners Children’s Lexington’s new pet therapy dog is already making a huge impact.

Chance, who is a mixed-breed and is estimated to be around 3, started visiting patients at the Lexington medical center this summer and has already stolen the hearts of patients, staff and supporters. Chance and patients in the bimonthly prosthetics clinics relate because Chance also has a limb difference.

Chance with male patient

Chance, a therapy dog who visits Shriners Children's Lexington, connects with kids like Arlo because he also has a limb difference.

A Second Chance

Chance’s handlers, Andrea and Hank White, found him through the same rescue where they had adopted their other dog, Sadie.

“Chance was found in a surrounding county, starving and with a bullet lodged in his left shoulder,” Andrea said.

Camp Jean rescued Chance and took him to a veterinary clinic. Like many of the patients at Shriners Children’s Lexington, Chance needed a complex surgery to amputate his leg.

“The vet told Camp Jean that it was the most complicated amputation he had ever done,” Andrea said.

Even though his likelihood of survival was questioned, Chance recovered from the surgery and came home to the Whites six weeks later. It was an instant connection.

Andrea said she knew as soon as she met Chance that he would make a great therapy dog.

“We only met Chance briefly with Sadie before we adopted him,” Andrea said. “But literally on the day we brought him home he knew several commands, was housebroken and started running around our yard with Sadie. He is the least aggressive dog I have ever had. I decided then and there that he would be a great therapy dog.”

Chance completed his therapy dog training through Love on a Leash. His training involved earning a Good Citizenship Certification and then conducting 10 supervised visits at a nursing home and a public library.

Putting Training to Work

In June, Chance began visiting Shriners Children’s Lexington twice a month during prosthetic clinics, where he meets and connects with patients who also have limb differences.

Andrea worked with amputees at Shriners Children’s Lexington for many years as a nurse, and Hank works with a variety of patients still as a physical therapist in the motion analysis center, so there was no question about where Chance would thrive as a therapy dog.

Andrea said Chance’s gentle demeanor and trusting, loving spirit made him the prime candidate for pet therapy training.

“He’s calm, relaxed and mellow,” she said. “He doesn’t get flustered or nervous around strangers. He is also very well behaved. He aims to please.”

Chance has a special way of connecting with the patients he meets, Andrea said.

“The kids just light up when we walk into their exam rooms,” she said. “They get down on the floor with him. Some parents get down on the floor, too. They want to know what happened to Chance. They ask if he still has pain. They want to see and feel his scar. They ask if he has a prosthesis. They show us their missing limb. They tell us about wearing (or not wearing) their prosthesis. If they can remember, they tell us about their surgery. The staff has also welcomed Chance with open arms. He puts a smile on everyone’s face."

Showing Resilience

Much like the patients at Shriners Children’s Lexington, Chance has shown resilience despite all the challenges he has faced. That’s why he connects with the kids he meets. “It’s like he knows he’s been given a second chance to make a difference in the lives of others,” Andrea said.

And what a difference he makes.

Frazann Milbern, a recreational therapist at Shriners Children’s Lexington, said Chance provides a sense of relief during clinic visits.

“Seeing Chance takes away a lot of anxiety and stress around a lengthy visit to our prosthetics clinic,” she said. “A lot of visits for prosthetics can be over an hour long, so visiting with Chance gives patients and families something to look forward to. The smiles on the patients’ and families’ faces shows it all.”

Emily Yost, whose 4-year-old son, Arlo, is a prosthetics patient at Shriner Children’s Lexington, said their exposure to the limb-difference community is limited, so meeting Chance made an incredible impact on their family.

“Meeting Chance was such an unexpectedly profound experience for our family,” she said. “With Chance, I could tell there was another level of relatability and compassion coming from our son. He had a ton of questions after the visit about what happened to Chance and what we could do to help him further.”

Meeting Chance created learning opportunities for the whole family.

“We explained to Arlo that just like him, Chance is and will be OK, and can do anything he puts his puppy mind to – just like Arlo does every day,” Emily said. “The visit was a poignant reminder that physical differences should never stop those effected from experiencing joy, and I believe was a great reflection for Arlo to see such resilience coming from an animal he loves so much.”

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