HSU PT Partners with Canine Companions

December 2, 2021 Mary Burke

The Hardin-Simmons Physical Therapy (HSU PT) Department has partnered with Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to people with disabilities at no cost.

HSU PT is serving in the capacity of a volunteer puppy raiser, where students and faculty provide a Canine Companions puppy with 14 months of basic training, socialization, and care. After 14 months, the puppy will return to Canine Companions for another six months of professional training where she will learn detailed skills, like how to assist with tools or open doors, to aid the individual she is assigned to.

Like other programs at HSU, the PT Department regularly incorporates service into their curriculum with yearly mission trips, fundraising projects, and volunteering with local nonprofits. These opportunities provide curriculum enrichment that extends the classroom out into the field. Students often use the skills and training developed in the classroom and apply them to individuals and the community.

Raising Greer is another way for HSU PT to provide service, while also providing a learning opportunity for students. Greer’s presence has introduced students to the benefit service animals can bring to their future doctors’ offices.

Greer’s 14 months at HSU will expose her to assistive devices, therapy machinery, clinical environments, and many different people, making her more prepared for her future placement.

HSU PT Puppy Team with Greer

The Puppy Team

Various PT students and faculty, called the Puppy Team, share duties while caring for Greer. Greer spends the day in the PT building, attending classes and clinicals, and goes home with a different member of the team at night. Just like any dog, there are designated potty breaks, mealtimes, and play times that the students need to account for in their busy schedules.

The team meets weekly to discuss Greer’s progress, her health, and the commands she must learn in the upcoming week. During a mid-November meeting, the team learned how to properly trim Greer’s nails, how to brush her teeth (daily), and how to clean her ears, along with the commands of “shake” and “down.”

Greer had been with HSU PT for less than two months, and in that time the Puppy Team has taught her the commands: “sit,” “dress” (that’s when she puts on her vest), “hurry” (to go to the bathroom), “here,” “let’s go,” and “release” (said when her vest is removed, signaling she is off duty).

When her training is finished, Greer’s impact will be vast. She will increase independence and the overall lifestyle of her owner. Her positive presence is currently felt in the PT building, brightening the halls with laughter and collaborative learning.

Training for a service dog can cost upward of $60,000, a financial mark that prevents the service for those who need it the most. “Canine Companions is an amazing organization because they provide service dogs for free,” shared Puppy Team member and second-year PT student, Cheyanne Hamilton. “Being able to partner with Canine Companions is a way for us to give back, now, to those we will work with in the future, as PT professionals.”

If you are interested in Greer’s progress and her impact on the HSU PT department, contact Dr. Wendy Anemaet.