VIRGINIA BEACH — The residents and patients at The Beth Sholom Village have had the pleasure of working with their first service dog, Yanni, for more than a month now.
Yanni is a facility dog who was raised and trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs at no charge to the recipient.
Yanni lives full-time with his handler, Josh Bennett, director of recreation therapy at The Beth Sholom Village.
Bennett has been working with Yanni for about a month now and so far they’ve been readily and happily received by the home’s residents and patients.
What does Yanni do?
Since Yanni is a service dog his main purpose is to do physical tasks for people with disabilities, Bennett said.
CCI provides four different types of assistance dogs including: service dogs, skilled companions, facility dogs and hearing dogs.
Yanni falls under the Facility Dog category because he works with a wide variety of people every day at the village.
He isn’t the only dog on the premises, however.
There are currently three other furry friends who hang out and provide companionship to the residents at the village, according to the village staff.
Teddy, Daisy and Max all come in with their owners and spend time with people.
“People are more likely to give more in therapy if an animal is present,” Bennett said.
Yanni is specifically trained to work in therapy so while the other dogs are there to provide moral support, Yanni facilitates various therapy techniques with Bennett.
A few examples of what Yanni can do are assisting with opening and closing drawers, using tugging techniques for arm strength therapy, and walking with a patient. He also can provide retrieval and emotional support, Bennett said.
Yanni came to The Beth Sholom Village free and the village covers his veterinary visits, his food and general living expenses through donations to the village, Bennett said.
Bennett and Yanni are still learning how to work with each other but he’s already been a joy for all of the people he’s worked with.
Mary Brinker, a patient at the villages’s short-term rehab facility, brushes Yanni every Friday as part of her physical therapy.
“He’s a real pleasure to work with,” she said, “I like to brush him and talk to him.”
To learn more about the service dogs that CCI provides, click here.