Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
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Animal-Assisted Therapy

A different kind of therapist.

Animal-assisted therapy engages patients of all ages and abilities in a range of therapeutic settings.

At Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, that job falls to Vandy — a black Labrador retriever who works on our recreational therapy team.  

The sweet-natured pup works with recreational therapists to help patients meet specific rehabilitation goals. Her presence alone can lift spirits. 

Vandy’s handlers work with physical, occupational and speech-language therapists on a variety of tasks to help patients improve fine and gross motor skills, mobility and endurance as well as cognitive function and emotional well-being. 

She encourages patients to walk a little farther and sit up independently. She helps patients practice their speech by giving her verbal commands and improve hand strength by brushing her or throwing her a ball. She even plays cards! 

Vandy is the first animal-assisted intervention dog in Michigan trained by PAWS With a Cause, a national non-profit organization based in Wayland, Michigan. 

Vandy in Rec Therapy

Why animal-assisted therapy? 

Working with Vandy provides several benefits. 

Vandy in Rec Therapy


  • Decreases heart rate and blood pressure, pain 
  •  Improves fine motor skills and gross motor skills, standing balance and wheelchair mobility, endurance 
Vandy with patient


  • Decreases anxiety and stress, depression and isolation 
  • Increases self-esteem and feelings of acceptance 
Vandy with pediatric patient


  • Increases attention skills 
  • Provides mental stimulation 
  • Encourages verbal interaction, sequencing, problem-solvin

Meet Vandy 

Vandy lives with her primary handler and spends her free time going for walks in the neighborhood, playing in the yard and relaxing.  

  • Favorite treat: Peanut butter off a spoon. 
  • Favorite game: “Guess Which Hand the Treat Is In” 
  • Favorite place to nap: Underneath the hammock in her backyard after work. 
  • Favorite thing to do off-duty: Take long walks and meet other neighborhood dogs. 
  • What makes her happy: Dancing around and between people’s legs. 
  • Pet peeve: When people touch her ticklish paws. 
  • Bedtime routine: After having her teeth and hair brushed, she’s tucked in with her favorite plaid blanket. 
Vandy on the 4th of July
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