SOCIAL RESPONSIBILTY

A New Way for a Service Dog to Serve

Sep 28,2021
After Koda hurt his knee, the hospital director at VCA South Shore (Weymouth) turned a future service dog into a hospital helper.

When VCA South Shore (Weymouth) Animal Hospital director Wendy Farley adopted Koda, he was a joyful, energetic 12-week-old puppy, and destined to be a service dog.

“I’d always wanted to try raising a service dog,” Farley says. “I knew it was a one-year commitment to socialize the dog, expose him to things, and do some basic training.”

But a couple of months into training, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Koda couldn’t visit grocery stores, dog parks and other places where he could interact with other people and animals. So, Farley made a point of bringing Koda into the veterinary hospital. 

“He was meeting clients, staff, cats and dogs,” she says, as well as socializing and training with treats and positive reinforcement.

People quickly fell in love as they learned Koda loved treats and was a “leaner,” she says: “Part of his training was supposed to be that he was trained to lie quietly under my desk while I worked all day, but very quickly, we found when an employee came in to talk to me, he would go and sit with them instead. He loves to snuggle. He’s like, ‘I’m going to help,’ thank you.”

Then, one day, Koda was playing in the backyard with Farley and her husband’s other dog and “came up lame,” she says.

Koda the dog

She rushed Koda to the hospital, where the service-dog organization that had lent Farley the dog approved diagnostics. Koda had sustained a knee injury: a tear of the cranial cruciate ligament. Surgery was necessary and he needed a TPLO, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy—a procedure regularly performed by surgeons at the hospital.

“The tibial plateau leveling osteotomy is used to stabilize a knee with a torn CCL,” says Dr. Andrea Tomas, one of the hospital’s board-certified surgeons.

The surgery went well, but the organization had bad news: Koda was being dropped from the program. They worried Koda’s new owner would be faced with rehabilitation work and risk of injury in the other knee, which is more likely in dogs who’ve damaged one knee.

Where did that leave Koda, loved by Farley and the VCA South Shore Weymouth team? Farley was given the opportunity to adopt him, and she took it.
Now, he’s a regular visitor, according to pet insurance specialist and financial coordinator, Lorraine Brady: “He just makes our day. You stop for a minute and play with Koda, and it just makes you happy.”

Farley says “He’s able to offer that comfort, that destressing they need.”

While it’s disappointing Koda couldn’t go on to become the service animal everyone hoped for it, he’s found a new way to take his training and great personality with him to his less official but no less important visits to the hospital: “His path changed, and we’re on a new path, and he has a new purpose.”

Did you know September is National Service Dog Month? VCA salutes all service dogs everywhere! (Even ones like Koda that don’t quite make it to their chosen career.) Find out more at American Humane.

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“He just makes our day. You stop for a minute and play with Koda, and it just makes you happy.”
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