Casper, the therapy dog has spent his entire adult life caring for others and he likes it that way.
Casper spreads his love and kindness everywhere in the Children’s healthcare hospital in Atlanta. He wags his tail, smiles wide and lends a helping hand to every child and employee he passes. Casper plays an important role in the hospital, sending cheer to everyone, especially those that need it more than ever.
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Many children in the Children’s healthcare of Atlanta are bound to their hospital beds for months. It’s Casper’s job to make those months feel like hours and those weeks feel like minutes. Although the patients try to stay optimistic, sometimes their poor health gets in the way, that’s when Casper comes in.
In November, Lisa Kinsel, Casper’s handler, noticed something was wrong when he returned home one day. His left side was limp and he couldn’t stand or walk properly. Casper had a stroke from a blood clot in his brain. Everyone’s favorite therapy dog needed therapy himself.
Although Casper is one of many therapy dogs in the hospital, he is the real star. He can put a smile on anyone’s face. Even the saddest patients smile when Casper comes around.
“I think that’s what makes him work so well with the patients. He knows that the child is maybe anxious, maybe in pain, and so when he’s there to help them, he sort of soaks that all in. And it helps eliminate their stress,” said Kinsel to CNN.
Casper started therapy in 2009, when he was only 1 year old. Every time he put his service dog vest on, he knew it was time to work. He’s a full time employee at the Children’s healthcare, with a badge and all.
Small plush, stuffed animal versions of Casper have circulated through the hospital, complete with a green vest and all. He’s a huge part of the recovery for children and their families.
“It was all about the patients and families. And then more and more, we were finding that the staff were calling and saying, ‘We’ve had a really rough day in Intensive Care today. Will you please bring him up? Because the staff need to see him,” Kinsel stated.
Casper now needs the same love and care he’s been giving since 2009. Physical therapy is a part of Casper’s life now. Dr. Kimberly Neff at Georgia Veterinary Rehab has been doing therapy with Casper since Decemeber.
“We don’t know what predisposes dogs to strokes, just like we don’t know for humans,” Neff said. “Of all the things neurologists see, it’s not that common in dogs.”
Part of Casper’s therapy involves an underwater treadmill, which reliefs some of the joint pressure. They even use peanut butter on the glass in front of him to motivate each step.
Casper’s condition is improving every day. He even got to celebrate his 9th birthday at the hospital. Many patients and hospital staff members sang to him. He greeted each and every person with a big tail wag and a kiss.
In late January, Neff graduated Casper from physical therapy after he made a full recovery. Casper is back to work and happier than ever.