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Veteran & service dog use pet therapy to help Brookwood patients

May 14, 2018

As an Army veteran, Scott Landreth is no stranger to working with a team. But these days, his new teammate has four legs.

Rambo, a chocolate Labrador, accompanies Scott as his service dog assisting with his daily duties as a pet therapy volunteer at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. Scott and Rambo were paired together by Service Dogs of Alabama.   

Scott’s story is one that has many messages from overcoming adversity, being resilient and simply giving back. After two life-altering events, including a traumatic brain injury while serving in the Army and a spinal cord injury as a civilian, Scott’s mission is simple – he wants to share his story with the sole purpose of helping others.  

Pet Therapy: Improving Patient Outcomes

Scott and Rambo improve the patient experience at Brookwood Baptist by administering pet therapy, a common form of therapy that involves pet visits to help patients better cope while in the hospital. The Brookwood Baptist pet therapy teams visit many patients receiving care including rehab, cancer and mental health patients.

Scott, his wife Melinda & Rambo-min

“Unless you go and witness it, you can’t imagine the joy and happiness it brings these patients,” Claudia Stephens, volunteer coordinator for Brookwood Baptist Medical Center said.

Scott, a former rehab patient himself, is able to share his personal story with patients bringing hope to them and, hopefully, as a result improving their outlook during the recovery process.

“I want to walk out knowing we brought happiness and let someone know if I can make it this far, they can too,” Scott said.

Stephens said the pet therapy teams have worked with nurses to improve patient outcomes in a variety of ways such as incorporating the petting of a dog during therapy to strengthen shoulder mobility.

 “Every time I see the impact it (pet therapy) makes on patients, I walk out of the room with tears in my eyes,” she said.

Once a Patient, Now a Volunteer

Scott is not only a believer in the benefits of pet therapy, but actually experienced the benefits himself following his spinal cord injury in December 2013. His injury left him diagnosed with Brown-Séquard Syndrome, which results in weakness or paralysis on one side of the body and a loss of sensation on the opposite side.

“I gave up. I didn’t want to live,” he said. Because of Scott’s spinal injury, he had to rely on his wife for assistance with various daily tasks, from showering to visiting the restroom, which he said left him very emotional.

He shared there were three things he learned following his injury: the first thing was forgiveness, the second was to listen to God and the third thing was to help others.

During inpatient rehab, Scott had to relearn the basic fundamentals and daily functions, such as eating and drinking. He now is assisted by a walker and his partner, Rambo.

 “The people at Brookwood were fantastic,” he said about the rehab team that helped him along his road to recovery.   

Coming back to the rehab floor as a volunteer, Scott said he is able to provide hope to patients who are typically suffering from depression following an injury or accident.

“I want them to know it’s not the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new chapter,” he said.

Meet Rambo – The Service Dog on a Mission

Rambo Only-min

It’s not uncommon to find Rambo sitting calmly in the lobby of Brookwood Baptist with Scott as patients smile, laugh and compliment Scott on his well-behaved companion.

Dressed in his own blue volunteer vest, Rambo assists with fall protection, mobility assistance and retrieving items for Scott. He also can wake up Scott if he is having a nightmare, typically associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 “Rambo not only gave me my freedoms back, but he gave my wife back her freedoms as well,” Scott said.

Rambo and Scott not only help patients, but they have an impact on the families in the waiting areas as well as the staff who care for the patients.

One person waiting in the lobby said to Scott, “Thank you for sharing him,” as Scott prepared to make his rounds after leaving the main waiting area.

Rambo and Scott will celebrate two years as a team in July. They continue to volunteer at Brookwood Baptist and remain active in the community.

All in all, Scott’s story has many lessons. From being a rehab patient to now helping rehab patients, to giving pet therapy after receiving pet therapy, to volunteering despite his limitations, to spreading the impact of service dogs to other veterans, the list could continue.

However, Scott sums it up by sharing he and Rambo have a specific goal when they come to Brookwood Baptist to volunteer.

 “If we can bring a smile to someone’s face in the midst of everything else, our job is complete. If we change the outlook of someone in the hospital, our job is complete,” he said.

Story by Brittney Knox
Video by: Service Dogs of Alabama

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