STARS dogs help physical therapy patients thrive

STARS dogs help physical therapy patients thrive

Sometimes "man's best friend" can come through in a time of need.

That can be especially true after you've had surgery and need physical therapy.

But what does it take for a dog to get that kind of job and how do these animals help physical therapy patients?

Meet Jimi!

Siouxland News was there when James Holst met that dog with a job for the first time.

James has been in the hospital, UnityPoint Health St. Luke's in Sioux City and now he's getting physical therapy after surgery on his leg.

"Mainly it's been trying to get my muscles loosened," said James. "They tend to tighten up to the point where you can't walk."

Jimi is with the K9 Therapy program at STARS, Inc.

"They love their jobs and they want to keep their jobs," said Jean Gill, the K9 STARS coordinator.

Gill has been with STARS for 14 years, working with the dogs.

She says sometimes dogs like Jimi can see success easier than their human counterparts.

"The people, often, will work harder for Jimi than they will for a physical therapist," said Gill.

The dog laying at Jean's feet is Kassie.

She's in the program, too, and she's an example of how any dog could fit in with the program.

You see, Kassie was an incredibly hyper puppy.

Kassie passed obedience classes, a canine good citizens test and probably most importantly, the temperament test.

"If they don't pass the temperament portion, it's one strike you're out," said Gill. "That doesn't mean you have a bad dog, that just means they don't handle stress well."

You can see that temperament training with Jimi, especially when he's wearing his lion's mane.

When Jimi puts it on, his new friends, like James, have to bend and use motion to put on and take off clips.

He's a pro at the ring toss and bowling, too.

All these activities are designed to get James moving, with a skill and a disarming quality you'd be hard-pressed to see in just about any human.

"Watching the joy that the dogs bring, watching how the people try harder for the dogs in their therapy, knowing the person is in a lot of pain," said Gill.

James says he doesn't have a dog at home.

"We have a cat," said James.

But working with Jimi might make him wish for one.

Besides physical therapy, the dogs also do a "read-to-me" program at the Sioux City library.

You can find out more, and meet the dogs in the program, by visiting this web site: scstars.org/stars-k9-program.html.

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