La Crosse is the first Mayo Clinic Health System campus to have a full-time, trained Facility Dog. Lunar III (Luna) graduated from Canine Companions for Independence in Delaware, Ohio. She was assigned to Mayo Clinic Health System completely free of charge.
Luna is an expertly trained assistance dog and can engage in over 40 commands, which are designed to assist providers and patients in the hospital setting. These commands can be modified for patients’ needs, and include assisting with exercise, motivation, calming, pulling pediatric patients in wagons/scooter boards or helping them swing, opening/closing drawers or doors closed and retrieving all kinds of items.
Luna lives and works alongside Lisa Morgan, Rehab Services Supervisor in La Crosse. She visits patients and staff in the Cancer Center, Cardiac Rehab, Rehab Services, Acute Care and multiple other departments. She assists La Crosse’s child life specialist as well and travels with Morgan to other clinics in the region, including Onalaska, Sparta and Tomah.
While Luna will provide comfort and support to our providers and patients, she is different than a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are commonly found at hospitals, schools and nursing homes and are solely there to provide joy to others. It’s important to remember that no national standards exist for the training of therapy dogs and that they are not certified; rather the dog/handler teams that pass evaluations are registered as a team, according to Canine Companions for Independence.
On the other hand, facility dogs are bred for this line of work and must pass the nationally standardized public access test administered by a certified evaluator. There are follow-up assessments that facility dogs must pass on a periodic basis to ensure their safety in a public setting.
Luna can be requested to visit or participate in the care of patients, and she can also be requested to visit families and staff members.