For eight years now, volunteer, Pat Cortese, and her Labrador retriever, Angelina, mostly known as Lina, have worked with the children at the Residence in Rhinebeck. Lina is a therapy dog who provides comfort and a sense of safety, and helps keep the children keep calm.
Now nine years old, Lina forward to her visits at Astor and the children count on their Tuesday afternoon visits with Lina.
Dr. Jessie Giglio Alfin, a psychologist who works with the children at Astor, speaks of one child whose behavior was unpredictable. Although he was apprehensive at first to even pet Lina, now he waits patiently each week for Lina’s arrival.
Lina’s presence helps the children feel more relaxed and open to talking.
“The children can talk to Lina about anything,” Cortese said.
During group sessions with Lina, staff are able to introduce and discuss topics the children can relate to, but that are not directly focused on their lives. For example, they might discuss what it means to be a “rescued dog.” Other times, they go around and pick cards with topics such as, what is your favorite food or what qualities do you like most about yourself.
According to Dr. Giglio Alfin, Pat and Lina’s reliability and consistency has a tremendous, positive impact on children who have suffered trauma.
The visits have a positive two-fold impact; Pat Cortese says that both her and Lina enjoy the interaction just as much as the children do. She gets to teach the children how to handle and interact with Lina, and Lina adores all the attention. Pat is also happy that the work of the therapists is enhanced by Lina’s presence.
“It is such a rewarding experience. This is such a tiny thing that Lina and I do to help make the children feel good,” Cortese said.