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Shelby vision therapy dog celebrates birthday

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Skeffington has been helping patients for a year

By Beth Herrinton-Hodge

Meet Skeffington, an English Golden Doodle, the newest staff-in-training at Bowersox Vision Center. He has been with the practice for most of this year and today will celebrate his first birthday.

Passing his 1-year mark means big things for Skeffington. He will be able to register as a vision therapy dog and sit for his WAGS certification (Wonderful Animals Giving Support).

“WAGS is a Delta Society process that checks the canines demeanor around crowds, their interaction with people and other dogs, and their fitness for therapeutic work,” Dr. Dan Bowersox said.  

“Skeffie is the greatest dog I’ve ever had, and he’s a very smart dog. Of all the things I’ve ever bought, Skeffie is probably my favorite.”

Bowersox said is sure his canine friend will pass his WAGS certification with flying colors.

He had seen other therapy dogs at work in different therapeutic venues, in rehab facilities and in working with the elderly. A friend and eye surgeon in Louisville began using a therapy dog in his practice, and Bowersox decided to offer this service as well.

“The kids love him. And he’s very good with kids,” he said. “This particular breed doesn’t shed, so there’s little effect on people who have allergies. Skef’s presence with my practice has been wildly positive.”

In a therapeutic setting, patients often are calmed by interacting with the big, friendly dog. “If a young patient is afraid of the procedures I’m using for an eye exam, a few minutes with Skeffie will calm them down,” Bowersox said. “Or if a child works hard in a difficult treatment session, spending time with Skeffie is a reward for good work.

“We also have veterans and others with traumatic brain injury who come to the office for vision therapy. They can be easily overwhelmed. We take a break in the middle of a session and spend five to ten minutes petting the dog, then we’re able to continue treatment. Sometimes time with Skeffie can be the difference between quitting a session or being able to continue.”

These types of therapeutic programs are the source of Skeffington’s unique name. His namesake, A.M. Skeffington, was an optometrist known to some as "the father of behavioral optometry.”

This form of treatment, also called functional optometry, takes a broader approach to visual therapy by addressing behaviors such as the way patients sit or stand as they read, the way they approach computer screens, their posture as they write, in addition to assessing eye function and screening for common eye diseases.

The patients who visit with Skeffington at Bowersox’ office aren’t concerned about the type of optometric therapy behind Skeffie’s name. They simply enjoy his playful presence, his hugs and kisses and his outpouring of fun and affection.

A number of children have been begging their moms to take them to visit Skeffie, even when they don’t have appointments with Dr. Bowersox. Skeffington welcomes visitors.

Bowersox Vision Center issues an open invitation to celebrate Skeffington’s first birthday with a Birthday Paw-ty at their Washington Street office on Friday afternoon. It’s an open house from 3:30 to 5 p.m., with cake, hot dogs and treats for all.

And of course, all guests receive hugs from Skeffington.