Furry friends provide K-9 care at Shepherd Center - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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Furry friends provide K-9 care at Shepherd Center

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ATLANTA -

Two dogs are working hard to make patients at the Shepherd Center feel more at home during the holiday season.

When nurse Rebecca McWalters checks in with Marissa Reed her partner, Frosty, lies down, snuggling closer to Marissa.

Just 14, Marissa is one of Shepherd Center's youngest and newest patients, starting over miles from home and her own to dogs - Tupelo and Vicious - in Myrtle Beach, where Marissa was hit by a car walking home from school.

Frosty makes Marissa relax, and smile.

"Frosty is very calm; he's extremely gentle.  He loves people," said McWalters.
 
Frosty is part of Shepherd Center's nursing staff. He makes rounds with McWalters.

"I can say ‘visit' and he'll lay his head on the patient's lap.  Or ‘lap' and he'll get on the patient's lap and visit,'" said McWalters.

Now 3, the yellow lab is one of  two service dogs trained and donated to Shepherd Center by the non-profit Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Rebecca is both his owner and his partner.
 
"It took him about a month, but he -- just very gentle, figuring out where to put his paws and get up on the patients lap, but he did that himself," said McWalters.

Nobody looks forward to Frosty more than 3-year-old Charlie Beth McClendon.

"Oh, Charlie loves Frosty. One of the first times she met him, Rebecca said, ‘you can give him a hug,' and she said, ‘Is he a good hugger,'" said Trey McClendon.

The answer is yes.  

Charlie Beth's own dog, Oscar, is back home in Florida. The McClendons have been at Shepherd Center for four months after Trey McClendon was in a diving accident.

"For Charlie it's a moment away from all the medical stuff. It's a moment away from what's really going, and daddy is busy and why is daddy busy.  And she's able to step away and have fun and be a little girl," said McWalters.
 
Frosty's nickname at CCI was "The Gentle Giant." He's a walk-softly, wag-your-tail-often kind of guy.

Rebecca says that she can't imagine Shepherd Center - or her life - without Frosty.

"I love him, I think he's great. He's great," she said.

CCI has been training assistance dogs for 37 years. Last month, the non-profit matched its 4,000th dog with a disabled person who needs a little extra help.

Dogs like Frosty are raised as puppies by volunteer families before they go into their training program.

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