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Meet Kappy, Heartspring's Director of Happy

At Heartspring, Kappy helps children, families, and staff achieve happier, healthier lives

By: Heartspring Markerting

Meet Kappy, Heartspring's Director of Happy

This fall, Heartspring welcomed a sweet four-legged new employee who is quickly gaining popularity with children and staff. We are incredibly excited to welcome Kappy to our organization! Although Kappy is a facility dog, she has endearingly been given the title of "director of happy." Learn more about her story and her important role at Heartspring in this Q&A with Assistant Director of Pediatric Services and Marriage and Family Therapist Karla Hartlep.

Tell us about Kappy! What is her story and how did she come to you and Heartspring?

Kappy is a three-year-old spayed female Golden Retriever who was donated to Kansas Specialty Dog Services Assistance Dogs, Inc. (KSDS) by her breeder. As a puppy, Kappy spent time with KSDS puppy raiser Nikki Roberts of Ozark, MO. During this time, Nikki gave her heart and time to provide her a loving home, foundational training, and most importantly, some wonderful early socialization in a veterinary clinic.   

KSDS has a partnership with Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF). As Kappy grew from a puppy into an adult dog, she went to TCF for training by selected inmates who participate in the “Pooches and Pals” program. Through this program, inmates provide all husbandry and training while KSDS dogs are in the care of TCF. The next step was final training by Letha Nelson at the KSDS facility to pair Kappy with her human-half of the team. I had formerly completed the application process and had been approved to receive a facility dog for Heartspring. From my description of Heartspring and the children and families we serve, it was determined that Kappy would be a good match for the organization. Kappy and I completed a one-week training at KSDS and graduated as a team on September 24, 2020.

What is a facility dog?

KSDS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International and provides dogs trained in three different areas of assistance: Guide dogs to aid individuals with visual impairments, service dogs trained to perform a specific task or tasks for someone, and facility dogs. Facility dogs have an owner who is responsible for their welfare, care, tossing a tennis ball, and making room for them on the sofa in the evening. During the day, facility dogs accompany their owner to work. Schools, courthouses, hospitals, and now Heartspring are examples of agencies that may have a facility dog.

What job will Kappy have at Heartspring?

Peer-reviewed literature supporting the use of animal-assisted therapy has grown over recent years. Kappy and her playful nature will work with children and families to assist with teaching behavior regulation, impulse control, social skills, and empathy. Kappy will also help teach children animal care and how to greet a dog. She will create many communication opportunities, and I am sure she will always be up for a game or two. In the short time that she has been here, she has already had a positive impact upon many children. Kappy and her older canine sister Josie also have plans together for participating in group activities as Kappy becomes more familiar with her new role at Heartspring.

How will she help children, families, and employees in their journey towards happier, healthier lives?

Kappy provides play, comfort, learning, and relationship-building opportunities for our staff as well as for the children and families served at Heartspring. She is truly an ambassador of our mission.

We look forward to continuing to witness the positive impact our new "director of happy" has on the lives of children, families, and employees at Heartspring!

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