Mayo Clinic Health System welcomes first facility dog

Americans have been moved by images of late President George H.W. Bush’s service dog lying by his casket. His dog, Sully, will soon join the Walter Reed Military Medical Center to work with wounded military veterans.

A facility dog can be found in many hospitals across the country, and now, one can be found in La Crosse. Lunar 3, also known as Luna, is the latest staff member to land at Mayo Clinic Health System.

The organization Canine Companions for Independence matched Luna with Lisa Morgan at the beginning of November.

“Right now, we’re letting her kind of finish her adjustment period, and we’re working on integrating [her] more into therapy with patients,” said Lisa Morgan, a supervisor in the occupational therapy department at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Patients like Conrad can benefit from her knowledge of more than 40 commands.

“So a wide variety of skills that [she’s] able to use to engage in a very deep level with our patients, and their families and staff as well,” Morgan said.

Luna differs from a therapy dog or other service animals in that her skills can be used in a variety of ways within an organization.

“She’s also done some visiting for patients who are at [the] end of life. She has carried a basket of treats around in the cancer center for patients undergoing chemotherapy,” Morgan said.

Morgan was working with a patient recently who has large, uncontrollable movements.

“A lot of dogs might be kind of frightened or just freaked out by that,” Morgan said, adding, “The entire time she was with that patient, she just laid calmly across her lap.”

Morgan said she’s talking with other departments to see how they can start new special programs with Luna in the future.

“It’s a really, really exciting program. I think she’s just going to add so much,” Morgan said.

If all goes well, Luna will stay here for the rest of her life, but as Morgan jokes, maybe they’ll retire together.

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