UTC professor researches animal assisted therapy

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A professor at UTC is conducting research to see how animals can help with physical therapy.

Andy Pierce has been coming to Siskin Hospital in Chattanooga for physical therapy since July.

“I used to drag my left leg a lot, but this up here has helped me walk a lot better in my left leg, I don’t drag it as bad,” Pierce said.

He had a stroke in the fall of 2015. His wife Marcia says they were looking for a neurological physical therapy center.

“He had some therapy at home and we just started seeing a decline and we were searching for some help to try to make things as good as possible,” Marcia Pierce said.

At his session on Friday he was working with a dog named Charlie. It’s animal assisted therapy, which is part of a branch of research UTC Professor David Levine is looking into.

“We’re using the pet as an active part of their therapy. So for example if someone is a dog lover and they are lacking certain motor tasks, maybe they are having trouble with their hand or their fingers. We are having them do tasks on the dog to help improve those skills,” Professor Levine said.

He says patients may be more willing to do these exercises with a pet.

“So we use different participation scales, motivation scales, so it is physical rehabilitation but also looking at the psychology of exercising with your pet,” Professor Levine said.

This is different than traditional animal therapy.

“Animal Assisted Therapy is part of billable rehab. They are using the dog as a tool in rehabilitation,” Professor Levine said.

Professor Levine says patients able to incorporate the care of their dog into their therapy.

“Maybe brushing their dog, maybe putting the collar on and off, washing their dog, walking their dog, whatever they are capable of into their rehabilitation program,” Professor Levine said.

Marcia says her husband has shown a lot of progress.

“Just been extremely pleased with the program here and it is just overwhelming on how wonderful it is and how accommodating everybody has been,” she said.

Pierce hopes to continue to improve.

“I ain’t where I want to be but I am trying to get there,” Pierce said.


Categories: Chattanooga, Local News

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