Submitted by: PeaceHealth

There’s a new caregiver at Bellingham’s PeaceHealth Grabow Therapy & Wellness Center. She’s well-trained, enthusiastic and full of affection for all those around her. Meet Tessy, the center’s new facility dog.

Tessy poses with handler Diana Kurth, PT. Diana has been a physical therapist for 39 years and recently retired a therapy dog named Llano. Photo courtesy: PeaceHealth.

Tessy is a two-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever cross. She’s paired with physical therapist Diana Kurth to provide individualized care to people of all ages and abilities. Diana described Tessy as having the perfect personality for this line of work. “She’s just a sweet, sweet dog. She’s very loving but also a little goofy at times,” Diana said. “She balances friendliness and a high energy level with the ability to take a step back and chill when needed.”

Diana strategically builds on Tessy’s strengths to bring out the best in patients. A game of fetch or tug-of-war with Tessy can help them gain balance, core strength and leg strength. Diana adjusts variables, like the patient’s position, or adds in extra props, like a Bosu ball, to make it more challenging.

Diana tailors sessions with Tessy to meet the specific needs of patients. She describes how a patient with Parkinson’s disease can practice walking outside on different terrain while utilizing larger steps by taking Tessy for a walk, and a stroke patient can practice brushing her fur to regain abilities on the affected side of his/her body.

Perhaps Tessy’s most notable trait is that she’s very encouraging. She offers cuddles and kisses to distract from the pain experienced by total knee replacement patients as they complete their difficult recovery exercises, and playtime with Tessy serves as a motivating reward for children to be on their best behavior as they wait for a parent to complete a therapy session. Visitors, patients and staff report that they appreciate getting their ‘dog fix.’ “She brightens up the room and takes the intimidation factor away,” Diana said.

Making Tessy Paws-ible

Tessy is a great help around the office. Photo courtesy: PeaceHealth.

Diana was matched with Tessy through Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to individuals and organizations free of charge. They both underwent extensive training and testing to successfully become a Canine Companions facility dog team.

Amy and Brett Esary, who are self-proclaimed dog people and the proud parents of two Golden Retrievers, sponsored Tessy through the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation. Their funding covers travel, food and veterinary costs for her working life. Their support of Tessy merged their love for animals and commitment to philanthropy in a meaningful way.

“Tessy is a wonderful asset to the Grabow Center and will benefit hundreds of patients over her lifetime. That’s a wide impact and we are truly honored to be a part of it,” Amy said.

Tessy’s influence is invaluable. She proudly serves as an ambassador of what a service dog can do, easily boosts morale and skillfully guides patients along their journeys to health and wellness—with compassion, quality care and playful pup power.

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