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Therapy Dog Providing New Motivation at Ankeny Facility

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ANKENY, Iowa –People with brain injuries have to work extra hard to do simple tasks many of us take for granted. People at a metro brain injury rehabilitation facility have a new motivation to perform tasks in therapy sessions.

Genevieve Thomas is learning to move and speak again, after battling meningitis this spring. Mom Jeanie Thomas says, "They told us she had a 70% likelihood she would not come through this alive."

She moved into On With Life, a brain injury rehabilitation facility in Ankeny, five months ago. She was only minimally conscious then. Thomas says, "Just in the past few weeks she's begun speaking, which is awesome, and just in the last couple weeks she has been singing, and we're just seeing her personality come out."

She works with a series of therapists for several sessions each day, including a new one. Lolo, a therapy dog, started a couple weeks ago. Occupational Therapist Kelsee Hove says, "It's a huge motivation for Genevieve, if we're just asking for those movements, without Lolo in the picture, we don't always get them. But, they kind of come more automatically when you bring Lolo into the picture."

Occupational, speech and physical therapists are able to work on a person's served movement, speech and balance with the help of Lolo. Hove says, "It's a lot of messages to be sent to your brain, and so it's kind of that multi-tasking of several things all at once. So, it's very challenging for someone after they've had a brain injury to do all those things together."

A group called Iowa Association for Justice started fundraising for Lolo about a year ago. Nate Boulton with IAJ says, "Our group is made up of trial attorneys, people who represent people with traumatic injuries from work related accidents, car collisions and a variety of different situations."

The group raised $10,000 and worked with the Puppy Jake Foundation to train Lolo and bring her to On With Life. Administrator Pat Stilwell says, "You know medicine can't explain everything, and if you have a dog that can motivate someone, take those moments when they're in pain, and take their mind off of it, that's what it's about."

Jeanie Thomas says she’s noticed a difference in Genevieve since she came to On With Life. She says, “Initially when Genevieve was sick, I cried a lot. I cry a lot now, but the tears are different. I am very, very grateful.”

Lolo starts her day at 8 a.m. at On With Life and works the whole day, with a few nap breaks.

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