Mayo Clinic Health System long-standing patients donate to clinic’s facility dog program

Mayo Clinic celebrates facility dog’s one year anniversary
Luna, Mayo's Facility Dog

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- Long-standing patients of Paul Mueller, M.D., regional vice president of Southwest Wisconsin donated $2500 to Mayo Clinic Health System for their facility dog program.

Dan and Leora Garner gave the donation so the clinic can add another dog to their program.

Luna, Mayo Clinic Health System’s first-ever facility dog, was bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence in Delaware, Ohio. Canine Companions relies on the support of tens of thousands of donors and volunteers to match assistance dogs, like Luna, free of charge. The dogs are valued at $50,000, but Canine Companions is committed to providing them at no charge.

Mayo Clinic Health System will turn this gift over to Canine Companions. In addition, the Garners have added an additional $2,500 to go directly to Canine Companions with the expressed hope that another dog would be added to keep Luna company.

“This is an example of how grateful patients can support an organization,” says Lisa Morgan, supervisor of Rehabilitation Services in La Crosse and Luna’s handler. “In this case, Mayo Clinic Health System is paying this gift forward and giving back to an organization that has given so much to us.”

“What makes this gift unique is that it will be going to an organization that is making a difference in the care our patients are receiving at Mayo Clinic Health System,” says Dr. Mueller. “Luna is able to engage with patients in a way that humans often can’t.”

Canine Companions is building a new state-of-the-art facility to replace its outgrown Ohio training center. The new center will allow the organization to train and place a large number of dogs each year. Dogs that have graduated from Canine Companions have gone on to work as service dogs for people with disabilities, hearing dogs for the deaf or hearing impaired, and facility dogs placed in hospitals, court systems, rehab centers and schools.

Dr. Mueller will match the Garners’ original $2,500 gift, and Mayo Clinic Health System and the Garners will be recognized on a paver in the new training facility.

“We are very excited about Canine Companions’ work with Mayo Clinic Health System,” says Paige Mazzoni, CEO of Canine Companions for Independence. “What has started with the impact of one amazing assistance dog team, promises to grow and positively affect the outcomes of many more Mayo Clinic Health System patients. We are especially grateful for the financial support of Dan and Leora Garner, as well as Dr. Mueller, in working to achieve these goals. We see this as just the beginning, and are excited to work with Mayo Clinic Health System to do more good for years to come.”

On average, Luna connects with 20 individuals on a daily basis. She can be requested simply to provide comfort or can use special skills to participate in therapy. The departments Luna regularly visits include rehab services, the cancer center, cardiac rehab, etc., and she often attends community events representing Mayo Clinic Health System.

“Facility dogs give unconditional love, which promotes healing,” say the Garners. “We hope that our gift will, in the future, help grow the facility dog program at Mayo Clinic Health System.”