March 26, 2018
For first year Master of Science in Occupational Therapy student Kailey Worthington, hands-on education in her field extends far beyond the classroom. That’s because in addition to being a full-time student, Worthington is also raising a service dog through Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance dogs free of charge to recipients.
Worthington was first inspired to raise a service dog while an undergraduate at the University of Delaware. The summer after her freshman year, she applied to participate in the Canine Companions program and was selected to raise a puppy, Ohio. After completing preliminary training, Worthington received eight-week-old Ohio, whom she would raise for the next eighteen months while teaching him over 30 commands. Ohio then completed six months of advanced skills, learning how to open drawers and pick up items as small as lip balm, before he was matched with an individual with special needs.
Worthington described the feeling of handing over the leash to Ohio’s new companion, saying, “Seeing the interaction that the dog has with that person and seeing how thankful they are is extremely rewarding.”
At UNE, Cadillac has become an integral part of Worthington’s day, accompanying her to classes and to her fieldwork program. “My actual fieldwork for this semester is outpatient pediatrics,” she said. “It has two facility service dogs, so I am just looking to learn more on how that works."
It’s not just Worthington who is reaping the benefits of working with Cadillac, explained Kristin Winston, Ph.D., OTR/L, program director and associate professor for the Occupational Therapy Department in UNE’s Westbrook College of Health professions. “I think he’s shaping the future of her career, but also the rest of the class and the rest of the students who are exposed.”
"Now I think people are incorporating the idea of what a service dog would look like in occupational therapy practice or in their individual therapy,” she continued. “I think that’s influencing not only the students in occupational therapy, but the students on the Portland campus who interact with him, see his vest, and see he is a working dog."
“I think he makes everybody’s mood go up,” said Worthington. “Sometimes people will stop me before we have exams and say, ‘Can I pet him for a little bit? I just need some Cadillac time.’”
To learn more about the University of New England’s Westbrook College of Health Professions visit www.une.edu/wchp
To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions