Written by Jessica Meadows
North Central Health Care (NCHC) recently welcomed a new member to their team . . .
Alvin the therapy dog!
Alvin was purchased with the support of North Central Health Foundation, which provided a $10,000 grant to cover the cost of Alvin and his training.
A Little About Alvin . . .
Alvin was born in Anniston, Alabama, and raised at iK9, a training facility that specializes in therapy, service, law enforcement, and military canine training. He has a National Therapy Dog Certification.
Alvin gets his name from the popular children’s cartoon The Chipmunks. He has two brothers, Simon and Theodore (of course!).
Alvin’s brother Theodore (Theo) is one of two therapy dogs with the Wausau Police Department. Theo goes to work each day with school resource officer Jeff Schremp at Wausau West High School. See Theo in action and learn how to support his work in this YouTube video.
Alvin is a Golden Doodle, or a cross-breed dog, which is obtained by breeding a Golden Retriever with a Poodle. This combination results in hypoallergenic fur — which is great for healthcare environments.
NCHC began planning for Alvin’s arrival in early 2019 with the creation of a K9 Care Team. This group of NCHC employees is responsible for the planning, integration, and implementation of Alvin’s unique skillset at the facility. The team is led by Alvin’s handler, Daniel Shine, who is also the Lakeside Recovery Manager at NCHC.
Daniel spent 2 weeks in Alabama training with Alvin in February. At that time, Alvin had 15 months of therapy dog training under his collar, so a lot of the learning was placed on Daniel’s shoulders. During the 2 weeks, Daniel and Alvin spent 24 hours a day together, learning basic handling and commands, applying Alvin’s skills in a variety of mock behavioral health settings and building their relationship. They visited schools, hospitals, and sporting events to learn about each other and how to work together with large groups of people.
So, What Is Alvin’s Job?
Alvin’s presence provides calming therapy to those who may be anxious, nervous, or experiencing escalated behaviors. Therapy dogs can sense when a person may be in distress and offer their companionship and comfort.
Therapy dogs have been proven to:
- Lower a person’s blood pressure
- Reduce physical pain
- Cause the human body to release calming endorphins, which is especially beneficial in mental and behavioral health crisis situations
Alvin will be working primarily in Behavioral Health Services and Lakeside Recovery at the NCHC Wausau Campus, but he can be used in a variety of ways in any of the programming throughout NCHC’s continuum of care, as therapy dogs can benefit people of all ages.
Alvin has already shown his skills in several situations at the Crisis Center in Wausau. In a crisis situation, Alvin will spend a few minutes with client or patients, who are then better able to relax and are more willing to discuss their health situation and treatment options with mental and behavioral health professionals. He has also been used in group therapy sessions within Lakeside Recovery, a 21-day substance abuse treatment program.
We look forward to introducing Alvin at several events throughout Marathon County where everyone will have a chance to meet him.
While Alvin continues his orientation to our Central Wisconsin community, you can follow him on Facebook @AlvinLovesNCHC.
How Can You Help Support Alvin the Therapy Dog?
The North Central Health Foundation is accepting online donations for Alvin. Funds will be used for things like food, bedding, veterinary care, and grooming. Visit Alvin’s Facebook page or the Foundation page of NCHC’s website to donate.
Shop on Amazon.
You can support Alvin simply by shopping AmazonSmile —a simple and automatic way for you to support Alvin every time you shop on Amazon — and all at NO COST to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. Simply select North Central Health Foundation as your charitable organization. It’s that easy to help fund Alvin’s therapy work at NCHC!
Support NCHC’s Flower Sale Fundraiser.
North Central Health Care Volunteer Services is also holding a flower sale from March 25 to April 5 with proceeds benefiting Alvin’s needs.
Potted flowers can be purchased for $25–$27 and can be picked up just in time for Mother’s Day!
See www.norcen.org/FlowersforAlvin for details.
Communications & Marketing Coordinator | North Central Health Care
As the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at North Central Health Care (NCHC), Jessica Meadows is passionate about being able to use her creative talents to connect people to healthcare, resources, and networking that will impact their life in a positive way. Prior to joining NCHC, she was a Creative Director and leader at a marketing agency in the Stevens Point area. With almost 20 years’ experience in print, web, social media, video, radio, and public relations, it was important for her to connect back to her roots here in the Wausau area, where she and her husband raise their two young children. When she’s not busy at an event or volunteering, she enjoys playing sports, coaching, biking, traveling, and exploring the outdoors. Email Jessica Meadows.
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