HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At REHAB Hospital of the Pacific, a 2-year-old yellow labrador offers his own brand of medicine.
Toby is the four-legged member of REHAB’s staff.
“He’s here Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 4. He works a full day and sees many many patients,” said Kasey Alexander, REHAB’s animal-assisted clinical therapist.
“He goes to every floor and even visits the outpatients.”
Patient Lakeisha Sato is getting stronger thanks to Toby. Their toss and retrieve exercises are helping her regain the use of her left hand.
“When I knew I could do it and I had support from staff and a dog, oh, that was even better!” she said.
Alexander is Toby’s handler. They’ve worked together since August, helping with physical, occupational and even speech therapy.
“We have some patients that have strokes and brain injury. They may struggle even saying his name,” she said.
Toby was trained by Assistance Dogs of Hawaii to obey 90 commands. His disposition is a bonus.
“He just brings comfort and healing and just a lot of joy, especially in the midst of a pandemic when there’s limited visitors,” Alexander said.
Sato has two weeks to go before she goes home to Maui. Toby has taught her a valuable lesson.
“Don’t give up. It gets easier,” she said.
Alexander survived cancer and was a REHAB patient before joining the team.
“I wanted to give back, and I wanted to bring some healing, some hope to people,” she said.
She knows how tough the road to recovery is and how Toby lightens patients’ loads.
“He may start chasing his tail. He may role on his back to get belly rubs. He knows exactly what they need at that moment,” she said.
Alexander is also a licensed mental health counselor. She teaches people how to counter stress through grounding and breathing exercises, and practicing gratitude.
Toby has his own methods that work wonders.