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A trio of golden retrievers offers a unique therapy experience


January 26, 2023

David Huber Photography

Cece, Bailey and Ada, the therapy dogs at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center in Worland take turns working with owner Andrew Stiles

WORLAND – Andrew Stiles, an occupational therapist at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center in Worland explained the role that his dogs have in his work.

Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center is located behind the Worland Health Club at 120 South 17th in Worland, and offers physical and occupational therapy with the added bonus of an on-duty golden retriever. Stiles, the owner of the dogs, said "It's just something different, it's something a little niche that you try to stand out and be different."

Ada, Bailey and Cece are three golden retrievers that have been trained since they were weeks old to work with people. Stiles described them as being calm, comforting and that they love being around people. One dog gets to go to work at Fyzical at a time, and they rotate shifts. Stiles said "I can't take more than one at a time because they would distract each other."

The story of the dogs began in 2019 when Stiles and his girlfriend, Natasha Vega, were both working at Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Worland. They got Ada as a puppy at that time, and when she was about 9 weeks old they began to take her to work. She began training there five days a week and offering comfort to the people that she worked with. Stiles said that Ada was a great success at Worland Healthcare and when he switched jobs two years ago to be an occupational therapist at Fyzical he decided that he would see how she did there as well.

Around the time of his job change, he and his girlfriend also got a set of sibling puppies Bailey and Cece. Stiles said that there was a third sibling too, but that at 6 months old it passed away due to congenital heart defects.

Bailey and Cece were trained in the same way that Ada was, and soon the trio was taking turns sharing their charm with patients at work.

Stiles said that the Wassum and Harmon families that own Fyzical have been supportive of his work with the dogs. He attests that the employees get just as much out of having them there as the patients.

Stiles said that the idea to bring dogs in to work had been formed from classes he took while in college, where he learned about dog training and the roles that animals can have in therapy and rehabilitation. He said that after learning so much about it, he decided that he would try it out for himself.

Stiles said that the routine has been very successful so far, saying "You get better results and better effort from people if you have the girls (dogs) involved."

He continued, saying "Sometimes people are having a rough day or not feeling so great, and usually it will put a smile on their face when they are greeted by a dog at the door. It creates a more welcoming environment when they are around, and it's been pretty special and pretty important to the community."

Stiles said that on the rare occasion that he doesn't bring a dog to work or when he runs into a client outside of work, the first thing they ask is always "how are the dogs?" He said that people often thank them for their services by bringing treats and toys.

When the dogs aren't working, they occupy themselves by going swimming, playing ball, or wrestling each other. They also like to go on long walks and watch TV to unwind.

Stiles said that he's very grateful for the response he has gotten from employing his dogs at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center and looks forward to bringing them in to work every day.


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