Mack the healing dog is the newest employee at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment. Nicole DeBruyn, 20, who helped raise Mack for the last two years, said goodbye to him Friday during his graduation from Deafinitely Dogs! at Tanager Place. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Mack the healing dog on Friday became the newest employee at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment. Nikki Goos, an inpatient clinical manager at Tanager Place, is one of three of his handlers. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Mack the healing dog is the newest employee at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment. Cheryl Bender, who helped raise Mack for the last two years, said goodbye to him Friday as he earned his facility dog vest at Tanager Place. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Mack the healing dog on Friday became the newest employee at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment. Mack graduated from Definitely Dogs! Friday and earned his facility dog vest. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Mack the healing dog is the newest employee at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment. I graduated Friday at Tanager Place. (Grace King/The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS — A 2-year-old golden doodle named Mack is joining the staff at Tanager Place as a support for children in inpatient treatment.
Mack graduated Friday from Definitely Dogs! in Cedar Rapids, which provides highly trained service dogs to those who need assistance. Studies show the positive impact of facility dogs on children’s ability to feel safe as they begin their healing journey, according to a news release last week from Tanager Place.
Mack’s “service dog in training” vest was replaced with one that reads “facility dog,” put on him by Cheryl Bender, who raised Mack for the past two years with her husband, Paul DeBruyn. They incorporated him into their family.
“It’s really hard,” Bender said. But she would raise him all over again, she added.
Mack will play an important role in the treatment and healing of children experiencing mental well-being challenges, according to the news release. There’s some “magic healing” that comes from an animal,” said Sherry Steine Ross, co-founding director of Deafinitely Dogs!
“Mack told his raisers early on, ‘Everybody loves me and I love everybody,’” Steine Ross said.
Definitely Dogs! matches dogs to jobs they want to perform and excel at doing, Steine Ross said. The dogs are introduced to applicants and look for “that spark of connection,” she said.
Professional facility dogs from Definitely Dogs! are extensively trained dogs that have the same training as service dogs and receive additional training in socialization. The training regimen for a professional facility dog through Definitely Dogs! is two or more years.
“We want happy, healthy, confident, thinking dogs, not robots,” Steine Ross said. ”We care as much about the mental and physical health of our dogs as we do our applicants.“
Three Tanager Place employees have been trained as handlers to work with Mack: Jenni Archibald, executive administrative assistant at Tanager Place; Brooke Mohs, inpatient operation manager, with whom Mack will live; and Nikki Goos, inpatient clinical manager.
It will be a client’s decision to interact with Mack, who will be given permission to say “hello.” Mack will be given commands politely like a “sit please,” which is “lighter, airier and kinder for the dog,” Steine Ross said.
Mack will be slowly integrated into Tanager Place’s services as he adjusts to a new life working and living with Mohs.
When Mack can no longer work, Definitely Dogs! will retire him to a loving family.
“Deafinitely Dogs! recognizes there is great synergy in the partnership with Tanager,” Steine Ross said. ”Our organizations have similar philosophies in care and providing our community with specialized options for mental well-being. We’re better together because of each other .“
Mack also will serve as an “ambassador for healing” to the entire community, Steine Ross said.
Mack can be found on social media on Instagram at @MackTheHealingDog and TikTok at @MackTheHealingDog. His social media accounts of him will provide a glimpse into his job duties, life at Tanager and helpful well-being tips for everyone.
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