VIERA, Fla. — The past two years of the pandemic have been long and tough, especially for frontline health care workers, but it's not just men and women fighting the good fight at area hospitals.
At Health First's Viera Hospital Spectrum News was given the opportunity to take a walk through the halls with a different kind of frontline worker, one bringing a smile to patients and staff alike.
“OK, Jammer push, push — that's a good boy," Joelle Boccabella said excitedly as the service dog successfully opened the handicap accessible door leading into Viera Hospital.
This is exactly the kind of entrance Jammer is used to making, especially since he can open a door without the use of opposable thumbs. It's something he and his handler, Joelle Boccabella, still find surprises people when they see Jammer in action for the first time.
Walking the halls of Health First's Viera Hospital is hardly a first for Jammer — as one of three highly trained facility service dogs, he's a very special and important part of the team.
Certified by Assistance Dogs International, Jammer was matched with Boccabella when he was a puppy, after going on to train with Canine Companions over a rigorous two and a half year program.
“All the canine companion facility service dogs can do over 42 commands," Joelle explained.
Taking the training he's learned, he uses it throughout the hospital, bringing joy and companionship to hospital staff and especially patients recovering and working through all types of illnesses.
“What it does is, especially when patients do exercises, it helps them not focus on the pain and it allows them to refocus," Boccabella said.
Working and recovering from the past two years of COVID'S strain on frontline health care workers is certainly is taking a toll, but for facility service dogs like Jammer, pushing through it all and providing the comfort and care each one of his patients truly needs.
Health First also has a therapy dog program that's separate from the training their facility service dogs go through. No formal training is required for therapy dogs, but they must pass the Therapy Dogs International Testing Guidelines before they're allowed in the therapy dog program.