On a sunny morning in a court yard at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Babs the facility dog is getting a full grooming session. And she seems to be very content.
She has her head in the lap of her handler, Lindie McDonough, while one of McDonough's patients, Josh, gently brushes her.
"It's like a doggy massage. It's like a doggy spa," Josh said.
A few months ago, Josh wouldn't dare to go near Babs because of his debilitating fear of dogs.
"Our first couple of sessions together we just sat about 10 or 20 feet apart and just the presence of a dog was enough for him," said McDonough.
With patience and time, Josh and Babs are becoming friends and his phobia of dogs is slowly fading. He can brush her teeth, brush her fur and take a ball from her. The next steps will be to take walks in his neighborhood where he often runs into other dogs, something he couldn't do before meeting Babs.
"Our goal is to get all of our patients to be living as independent as possible, to be functioning to their maximum capability," McDonough said.
McDonough is a recreation therapist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. A couple of years ago, she applied to receive a facility dog through Canine Companions for Independence. In February, she and Babs were matched and trained together for two weeks. Babs became a fulltime employee at the hospital.
"She helps children with different kinds of functional tasks whether its dressing, grooming, opening doors, things that they might not be capable of," McDonough said.
Babs has quickly become a super star at the hospital. She makes the rounds with McDonough, working with groups of kids or in one-on-one sessions.
"Of course she’s a huge motivational tool. She gives the kids confidence. Just her presence goes a really long way."
Sometimes a walk around the halls or a trip outside for fresh air can brighten a child's day.
"I think Babs is a really good girl," said 10-year-old Selbin, a patient at the hospital. "I just like to throw her the balls and just like give her little tricks."
In her short time at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Babs has made a huge difference to the lives of the patients and McDonough.
"She’s added a whole new dynamic to my job. There’s just a different kind of energy when I’m working with her, different creative approaches I can use when I do treatment sessions by having her here," said McDonough.