Facility dog at Vanderbilt helps patients heal after strokes and traumatic brain injuries

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 20:54:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Most physical therapists walk on two legs, but Norman walks on four. Norman is the first facility dog on Vanderbilt University Medical Center's payroll.

Kelvin Simpson said, "He's quite a character."

Norman would probably call himself a 'professional cuddler' who does physical therapy with patients on the side.

Chrissy Durrough said, "When they might not feel like coming in to therapy for the day, they'll come knowing they get to hang out with Norman."

Norman's handler Chrissy Durrough facilitates the activities. Simpson said he had a stroke. He's been working on his speech, regaining his strength, and balance.

Simpson said, "My balance is getting a lot better."

Norman's all time favorite activity with Simpson is leg exercises.

Simpson said, "He came and laid his head on my chest which I didn't mind haha. I said 'okay if you wanna get on like that, that's alright with me.'"

Kelvin said Norman adds a positive dynamic to physical therapy.

Simpson said, "When I'm walking with him, it's kind of life 'if he can do it, then I can do it.'"

In return, the work at the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute is rewarding for Chrissy too.

Durrough said, "Often our patients are going through the hardest thing they've ever had to do and as you can see from Kelvin, for the most part very positive and more resilient than I think I would probably be."

Kelvin and Norman made a lot of progress on Thursday.

Simpson said, "I'm looking forward to continuing."

Between appointments, Norman takes naps and gets belly rubs.

Durrough said, "It makes a sterile hospital environment feel a little bit more homey."

Norman is considered a full time employee, but at the end of the day he does go home with Chrissy. You might see Norman exploring Nashville when he has paid time off.

He spent several years in training with Canine Companions for Independence.