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Lolo - Our Facility Therapy Dog

Meet Lolo, On With Life's very own facility dog! Lolo officially joined the On With Life family in mid-October 2014 and began her training as a facility dog for our Post-Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation program. Lolo assists with overcoming balance, mobility and strength challenges and provides emotional support and motivation to persons recovering from brain injury.

Lolo's Story

Lolo was born on August 13, 2014 to parents Aquarius and Titan. She was hand selected from Iron Hill Retrievers, a well-known and quality breeder located in eastern Iowa. Dad Titan (yellow lab), is a champion and Mom Aquarius (black lab) is a very sweet & special dog that comes from a champion family. Aquarius' grandfather is a Westminster 2006 Champ named Buzz. 

Placing a facility dog like Lolo at On With Life was the vision of Kam Stupka, an On With Life, Inc. board member and director of membership services at the Iowa Association for Justice (IAJ) at the time. In 2013, IAJ selected On With Life as their latest Justice in Deed project recipient, which links trial lawyers with community organizations to serve Iowans in need of assistance. They were quickly able to raise the $10,000 needed to breed, raise, and fully train Lolo.

Lolo was trained by the Puppy Jake Foundation and a few of our therapists who taught her the ins and outs of On With Life. This training made her a certified facility dog, which means she is fully trained to be in the facility and assist our persons served in their therapy sessions. Today, she's helping persons served get "On With Life" in many different ways. 

Benefits of a Service Dog

There are many reasons why Lolo is more than a dog to our persons served, families and staff. Research indicates that interaction with therapy dogs can temporarily affect the release of various neurotransmitters in the brain; levels of oxytocin (linked with bonding) and dopamine (involved in the reward-motivation system) are increased, while cortisol levels (an immunosuppressant associated with stress) are decreased.

Lolo also helps persons served meet goals important to their recovery, such as gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, or practicing pet care skills for pets they have at home. Engagement with persons served is vital to the rehabilitation process and when individuals interact with Lolo, it just inherently makes sense. Instead of moving a cone back and forth, which isn't fun or engaging, we bring Lolo into a session and have the person served throw a ball for her or brush her. We are able to get the same or similar range of motion and we get better engagement during the therapy session. In addition to helping during therapy, Lolo serves as an emotional support. When persons served miss their pets, a visit from a dog can brighten their day, lift their spirits, and help motivate them in therapy. 

Stories from Lolo

Read about what Lolo does every day from her perspective: 

"One day, I worked with a person served on using an eye-gaze system. This helps someone who is unable to use their voice to speak and communicate through a computer. The therapists programmed the system to tell me to sit, speak, and lie down. We had so much fun using the system together! It really helped him get used to communicating independently."

"I always comfort persons served whenever they need it. Sometimes therapy can be stressful, so I come to the rescue! If stretching is difficult for someone, I like to lie at their side and let them pet me. This helps them calm down and focus on me, not the difficulty of what they are doing."

"I played with a person served once who wasn't able to break from doing a repetitive movement with his arm. But when we started playing fetch, he threw me the ball! It was a fun game for me and a great milestone for him. I help people reach milestones like his every day. Some people feel more motivated by me."

"My needs are often taken care of by persons served and our staff. There's lots to do around the facility for me - I need to be fed, walked, exercised, and groomed daily. Some might say that's high maintenance, but it's actually important for our persons served to help me out! I help re-teach pet care skills that they use to take care of their own pets at home."

"I love visiting with families too! Medical facilities can be intimidating, especially for younger family members and persons served. When anyone sees me, though, they can't help but smile! I try to be a good host and make On With Life warm and welcoming for everyone who comes through our doors."

"Sometimes I just like to be along for the ride. When persons served are riding a bike, pushing a cart, or even walking down the halls, I'll join in on the fun. I can be a little unpredictable, so persons served have to adjust to my movements! This helps them prepare for the world outside of On With Life and all of the dynamic tasks you have to do."

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a service dog and how do they benefit persons living with a disability?
    According to the U.S. Federal Register, service dogs are defined as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability." While service dogs can help anyone from wounded soldiers to someone who sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, the positive effects can be seen in other areas as well. For many, the presence of animals can brighten their day and lift their spirits, help them maintain a positive attitude and encourage communication. For some, it helps motivate them in their therapy or treatment, reminding them of their own pets waiting for them at home. 
  2. What kinds of tasks is a service dog able to perform?
    Based on their innate obedience, intelligence, intuition and empathy, service dogs have also proven invaluable in helping individuals with a range of other needs, such as those who suffer from hearing impairments, diabetes/blood sugar volatility, seizures and mobility/balance issues, or individuals struggling with emotional conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
  3. Is my loved one required to work with Lolo?
    Your loved ones' participation is completely voluntary and you will be given the opportunity to indicate whether you would like them to be involved in therapy sessions with Lolo. Please contact our therapy or social work departments should you have questions.
  4. How is Lolo different than On With Life's pet therapy program?
    There are three types of Therapy Dogs: "facility therapy dogs,"  "therapeutic visitation dogs," and "animal assisted therapy dogs." On With Life's "facility dog" will assist team members in meeting goals important to a person's recovery.