Elvira Sakmari

Canine Added to Baylor Rehab Team

Karmen has been trained in more than 50 commands to assist in physical therapy sessions

A canine companion is the newest addition to the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Grapevine.

Karmen is more than just a cute face, she's been trained in more than 50 commands to assist in physical therapy sessions.

She helps with balance, grip strengthening and dexterity training.

"You get patients, that wouldn't even think about getting on the ground, getting on the ground on their hands and knees and coming and petting Karmen and saying that she doesn't have to get up when she could come to see them," said physical therapist Travis McCracken. "People with shoulder injuries saying they would rather just stroke and pet Karmen instead of doing some of our exercises, which is funny, but in reality is more functional."

The 2-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix is a product of Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs. The Irving facility opened two years ago. She is the first dog to be placed in a Baylor Scott and White facility.

Canine Companions breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and a cross of the two to be assistance dogs. Volunteers nurture newborn puppies for eight weeks before they begin basic obedience training over a period of 14 to 18 months, according to the organization’s website.

The dogs then graduate to professional training, where they learn dozens of commands over the course of six to nine months. After training is successfully completed, the dogs are matched with adults, children or veterans with disabilities, or professionals in health care like Karmen.

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