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5-Year-Old Boy Recovers At Kennedy Krieger With Comfort From Dogs

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Countless people know the feeling that comes from hugging their pet. A few years ago, hospitals began bringing pets in to cheer up their patients.

Now Mike Schuh reports those animals are doing even more.

One of the great parts about being a dog like Chloe is that when you go to work, you don’t even know it.

And Kennedy Krieger Institute is a place that can really use her help.

Chloe’s job Monday is to work with Austin, a 5-year-old from Alaska. On March 22, Austin was in the back seat of a car. Icy roads led to a head-on crash.

He died and was brought back. His spine is now a web of titanium and steel.

Lisa, his physical therapist, knows this will be a good session. Chloe won’t have it any other way.

“It makes him happy,” said Austin’s mom, Tina Ervin. “It makes him feel like he’s at home with his own animals. It puts joy in his life.”

His life now is much different than it was. The new snowmobile, the bears outside the window, the family’s horses are all distant.

Lisa: “Chloe’s 7 and a half.  So is she younger or older than you?”

Austin: “I’m 5.”

Lisa: “You’re five, so Chloe is older than you.”

This past year, Kennedy Krieger began using three dogs to motivate children during what can be tough therapy sessions.

“A motivator, the dogs offer the children a sense of home, a sense of being in touch with the outside world outside of the hospital,” said Sherry Fisher, Kennedy Krieger special programs. “And secondary to that, they have unconditional love and acceptance from the dogs, so dogs do not judge us on our failures.”

In the year since bringing in therapy dogs, about 30 children have benefited.

It’s something this mother is grateful for.

“If he’s having a bad day, the dog comes in. His eyes get big. It brightens his whole day. He gets excited,” Tina Ervin said. “It’s awesome for him to have.”

In order to keep Austin here in Baltimore for another four-six months, his family has an online fundraising campaign. Just click here for more information.

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