Oklahoma City VA has a new four-legged member of their recreational therapy team named Val, a two-year-old Labrador retriever dog who was donated from a local nonprofit. Val works in Acute Care Rehabilitation and Outpatient Recreation Therapy.

“Val is our new facility dog, and he comes to work with me every day,” said Kacie Ingram, recreation therapist. “She helps Veterans meet their rehabilitation goals.

Veteran rubs the belly of facility dog

Warning: Belly rubs may be required

“Val starts her day at the Outpatient Recreation Therapy Clinic at the 14th Street Clinic, where she brightens the day of many Veterans. And then on to the medical center to work in Acute Care Rehabilitation.”

Helping to rehabilitate stroke patients

“Val works individually with our rehabilitation patients,” Ingram added. “Depending on which Veteran she is working, her assistance is different. [For] Rehabilitating stroke patients, we practice fine motor skills by having the Veterans practice brushing her. Also, Veterans work on memory and pronunciation by memorizing commands and then giving those commands to Val for her to follow.”

Val joined Raisin, an eight-year-old Labrador retriever who has been at the medical center for six and half years.

Facility dogs differ from service dogs in that facility dogs are not assigned to one person to aid. They are assigned to a handler working at a facility where they assist professionals like recreation therapists who are helping many Veterans.

Helped 100 Veterans in one month

“Val has been here for a month and has seen a hundred Veterans,” Ingram said.

Anyone is welcome to greet Val or Raisin if they see them in the halls. However, the recreation therapy team members request Veterans ask if they can pet Val or Raisin in case they are working with other Veterans or patients.

But be warned, Val tends to slide down and expose her belly to anyone who pets her. Expect to be delayed with required belly rubs.

By Phillip Ybarra is a public affairs specialist with the Oklahoma City VA

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Published on Jul. 15, 2022

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