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New ‘therapist’ joins Sutter Roseville

Service dog assists with patient therapy
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The new therapist at the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute often gets complimented on her beauty. She has big brown eyes and soft blond hair. Lavender is also appreciated for her loving heart. But the yellow Labrador retriever doesn’t let the flattery go to her head as she helps patients. “We are excited to have Lavender here,” said Christy Nguyen, physical therapist and Lavender’s handler, in a press release. “Patients and staff adore her — she’s a wonderful dog.” Lavender arrived at the Roseville institute in May from Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, where she received advanced training for six months. She previously underwent 16 months of basic training with her puppy trainer. Lavender learned complex verbal commands such as how to open and close drawers and cupboards, retrieve objects such as keys, credit cards and pens, and open doors activated by push plate switches. She knows 37 different commands. “Lavender is a great motivator and facilitator of the recovery process,” Nguyen said. “She not only motivates patients to get out of bed, she also is an active participant while patients work on the smallest things like learning to move their arms again, sitting up straight or working on standing balance.” The dog comforts patients who miss their four-legged friends as they recover at the institute. She lays her head on a patient’s lap or sits still while he pets her soft fur. “The outside of a dog can heal the inside of a person,” Nguyen said. “Lavender has a wonderful healing component that really shines through.” ~ Sena Christian