Amy Peer and the Neurological Rehabilitation and Research Unit
Amy Peer recalls her first request with Kobe to visit a young girl in an unconscious state. Kobe jumped on the bed with the patient while nurses ran the young girls hand along Kobe's head and body. Doctors hoped the patient would awaken after petting Kobe to remind her of her own dog at home. After some time, the doctors asked to remove Kobe because the young girl was not responding. While Kobe jumped off the bed, the patient called out for her own dog. Peer, doctors, nurses and staff witnessed a miraculous moment.
Now, Peer brings Henry and Bender to work with patients recovering from any brain injuries in the Neurological Rehabilitation and Research Unit. In this department, Henry and Bender lie calmly on a bed in the physical therapy room waiting to be greeted with treats from patients. Both loving dogs help patients forget about their neurological traumas, in which keeping balance while standing, walking for long periods, being able to carry on a fluent conversation, and performing simple tasks is a huge feat.
Peer has been volunteering with the UCLA Ronald Reagan PAC Program for about seventeen years. While living in San Diego, Peer discovered the pet therapy program existed in the Scripps Hospital and knew she wanted to take part in a similar program impacting patient's lives. She sought out the UCLA PAC Program after moving to Los Angeles in 1998 with Kobe, her first dog who passed away a few years ago. They started volunteering in outpatient physical therapy and shortly after found Neuro Rehab to visit on the weekly basis. Bender, known as the "Gentle Giant" by Peer and staff, has been volunteering for six years. Henry, rescued by Peer at her local Farmer's Market, has been volunteering for two years. Peer's third dog, Maxine, is expected to start the PAC program soon after being tested.
As a professional dog trainer outside of volunteering, Peer believes that PAC does not only benefit patients. Dogs benefit from exposure to various machines, people, and sudden movements, which help them acknowledge while not reacting in a defensively instinct manner. PAC also benefits families anxiously waiting for their loved ones in procedures and doctors or staff having a bad day. Last, but not least, benefits are recognized by owners of PAC dogs who feel a sense of gratification in helping patients. Peer thanks patients for constantly reminding her to be grateful.