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Therapy dog helps patients at hospital

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Posted: October 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Marc Richards and his therapy dog Logan walk through the therapy gym at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia on Monday. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

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“Logan, can I get a kiss?” Valencia resident Barbara Moss asked as she labored to get back on her feet during acute physical therapy at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital on Monday.

The obedient 3-year-old black Labrador retriever at her side was more than willing to oblige.

Moss, 70, is among a few hundred patients who are treated monthly at the hospital’s Acute Rehabilitation Unit. Logan, her four-footed companion on Monday, is a weekly fixture at the hospital.

Santa Rosa-based Canine Companions for Independence has been breeding and training Labradors as service dogs for nearly four decades.

That’s where Logan came from. The black Lab is a constant companion for owner Marc Richards, a Castaic man who lost use of his legs 14 years ago due to a rare spinal injury, a complication that developed from chemotherapy medication he was taking at the time.

Forced to completely alter his lifestyle after his illness, Richards contacted Canine Companions 18 months ago. He says the decision to add this “mellow fellow” to his daily life has irrevocably changed it.

“I never owned a dog as an adult,” Richards said. “I was always skeptical of having to take care of it.”

Richards enjoys helping others through his website Spinalman.com, which offers tips and helpful advice for the paralyzed.

Logan is a big part of that service. Richards volunteers at the front desk at Henry Mayo on Monday afternoons, but Monday mornings he and Logan stroll the grounds looking for patients to cheer up.

Richards said he was inspired to help while he was a regular patient at the hospital.

When he saw a young girl with cerebral palsy pushing a book cart through the hospital, he thought to himself, “That’s special. I’d like to do something like that.”

Since Richards became less able to get around on his own, Logan helps his owner “get out of himself,” he said.

“Sometimes, you spend a little too much time in front of the computer or doing a little project for a couple (of) hours,” he said. “And he’ll just come up to me and nudge me as if to say, ‘Hey, let’s play.’”

psmith@the-signal.com

661-287-5526

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