Local therapy dog making a big impact on patients


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — One golden retriever is making quite the impact at a local Panama City medical facility.

After only 5 months as a therapy dog, staff at Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital say they have seen many changes in patients.

This 2 1/2-year-old golden labrador retriever has been trained in therapy by a group named ‘Southeastern Guide Dogs’.

With the money for his training, boarding and shots donated by a World War 2 veteran named Irwin, it was fitting the dog be given the name Irwin also.

Craig Segrest, Business Development Director for Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital, says Irwin serves many purposes at the hospital.

“A general morale booster, we take him around to the different units and he just lets the patient’s love on him and play with him and pet him,” said Segrest.

He also helps out in group settings.

“He sits in on group therapies, he sits in on assessments-during our admission process and basically helps ease that patient’s anxiety,” said Segrest.

And has made his mark when it comes to one on one time with patients.

“We’ve had other people that have some social anxiety or some anxiousness about joining groups and will kind of stay back from the group. And he is trained to sense that unwillingness. So he will go up to them, put his head in their lap, even grab them by the hand and literally lead them back to the group,” said Segrest.

Emerald Coast says their goal is to find different ways to reach people therapeutically.

“He goes out in the afternoons with the kids and our other adult patients and plays fetch with them in the courtyard and plays fetch with them and runs around with them. So at times he’s a working therapy dog and other times he’s just a dog,” said Segrest.

You can also find Irwin at outpatient centers in both Marianna and Fort Walton Beach.

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