Mayo Clinic's Newest Employee is Making a Big Impact

Canine Companions Facility Dog Luna

As of November 9th, 2018, La Crosse is the first Mayo Clinic Health System campus to have a full-time, trained Facility Dog. Luna graduated from Canine Companions for Independence in Delaware, Ohio. Luna was assigned to Mayo Clinic Health System completely free of charge.

Luna is an expertly trained service dog and can engage in over 40 commands, which are designed to assist providers and patients in the hospital setting. These commands can be modified for patients’ needs, and include assisting with exercise, motivation, calming, pulling pediatric patients in wagons or helping them swing, pushing drawers or doors closed and retrieving all kinds of items.

Luna will work and live alongside Lisa Morgan, supervisor of occupational therapy in La Crosse. “Luna will be visiting patients in cardiac rehabilitation, hospice and intensive care, along with multiple other departments. I will assist our Child Life Specialist with Luna as well. Luna and I will travel to other clinics in the region, including Onalaska, Sparta and Tomah.”

What’s the difference between a therapy dog and a facility dog?

While Luna will provide comfort and support to our providers and patients, she is different than a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are commonly found at hospitals, schools and nursing homes and are solely there to provide joy to others. It’s important to remember that no national standards exist for the training of therapy dogs and that they are not certified; rather the dog/handler teams that pass evaluations are registered as a team, according to Canine Companions.

On the other hand, facility dogs are bred for this line of work and must pass the nationally standardized public access test administered by a certified evaluator. They must perform tasks that assist people as well as behave in a manner that a service dog assisting an individual with a disability would. There are follow-up assessments that facility dogs must pass on a periodic basis to ensure their safety in a public setting.

Providers and patients will be able to request assistance from Luna.

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