Casper is an important tool in Brayden's therapy at Scottish Rite.
ATLANTA, Ga.-- A squeal of infectious laughter spills into the hall outside the physical therapy gym at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite. It's coming from a three-year old boy with a shaved head and shaky legs.
Brayden Martin hasn't laughed like this since he was diagnosed with a brain tumor seven months ago.
"He's so happy," Jonathan Martin whispers to his wife, Maranda as they watch. That's the magic of Casper.
Most therapy dogs come to a hospital once or twice a week. Casper is different. "I'd say that," Occupational Therapist Julie Hagar says. "He has his own name badge!"
He is a fully-certified full-time member of the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta team. Every night, he goes home with volunteer manager, Lisa Kinsel. "I think he has changed a lot of people's ideas about animal-assisted therapy. And we're learning more and more everyday about what types of things he can be utilized for," Kinsel says. "He's now part of the team for healthcare providers here."
Because Casper is here Monday through Friday, he is on-call. When doctors, therapists, or nurses have a patient that needs him, they call Lisa. They use him because he works.
Nine-year-old Trinity in radiology was crying when we walked in. As soon as Casper walks through the door, she looks up, curious. She buries her hands and her feet in fur, and again, Casper works his magic.
"You have to build in an extra thirty minutes to get anywhere," Lisa explains.
Heads pop out of doors and nurses confide, "I have another one." One visit turns into five. Fears replaced with smiles.
Back in that therapy gym, he is a tool. He helps Brayden re-learn to talk, walk, and stretch. "We use Casper as a distraction. Brayden was standing and tossing the ball and not really realizing he was standing because he was having so much fun," Hagar says.
It's what Casper does best: he makes you forget what you can't do.