NEW ORLEANS — They’re fluffy, 4-legged members of the Touro Infirmary team who’ve just joined the staff.
Meet Indie and Touro, they are the two adorable yellow labs who are stealing hearts and providing encouragement at the hospital.
They’re being trained to help physical therapists in the rehabilitation center.
“We’ll use her in therapy to use as a target to walk towards,” says physical therapist at Touro and now puppy raiser, Maggie Watson.
“She can put her in at a down stay and get patients to walk further, because they get to give Indie a treat or pet her. [It allows them to practice] mobility with their hands. They can throw a ball for her. So, Indie kind of has a purpose now, but will have a purpose later,” explains Cody Bellanger, the CEO and director of training and client services for United States Veterans Service Dogs.
That future purpose for the pups is to serve as a USVSD which pairs veterans who have PTSD or a physical disability with a specially trained dog to meet their need.
While Touro and Indie are just a few months old, we met up with an older lab, Serafina, who is fully trained and ready to be paired with her veteran.
“Serafina is being trained for a veteran who can hear in one of his ears. So, we teach Serafina to target his name so when somebody is speaking, he can see who’s talking to him,” explains trainer, Jessie Hardin.
The USVD is a non profit that just turned a year old.
Finding puppy raisers for patients is just one way they are preparing these pups for their ultimate job in helping those who’ve served our country.
“Dogs in general are just uplifting. Science has tried to prove what dogs can actually do for people’s morale. They have an idea, but I don’t think they truly understand how much they mean to people,” says Bellanger.
The puppy raisers at Touro will train the dogs for 12 to 16 months while helping PT patients, then the dogs will be trained for veteran services.
If you want to follow Touro and Indie’s journey, you can follow them on these Instagram handles: @touroattouro and indie_usvsd