Chance the therapy dog visits Shriners Children's Lexington to help children navigate overwhelming hospital visits and life with a limb difference
Chance is making the most of his second chance at life by comforting others.
The rescue dog is the first therapy dog to work at Shriners Children's Lexington. Before going through training and getting his job at the Kentucky hospital, Chance was found starving to death with a bullet lodged in his shoulder.
Animal lovers from Camp Jean Rescue provided Chance with much-needed medical care and affection, but these efforts were not enough to save the dog's front leg. To treat the damage caused by Chance's bullet wound, veterinarians removed the dog's left front leg, collarbone, and shoulder.
Chance acclimated quickly to losing a limb and soon charmed an adopter.
"I rescued Chance six weeks after his amputation. After seeing how gentle and intelligent he was, as well as obedient, I decided to pursue getting him pet therapy certified. As a former nurse at Shriners, I knew I wanted to focus on visiting patients with limb deficiencies," Andrea White, Chance's mom and handler, tells PEOPLE.
Chance and White completed therapy pet training through Love on a Leash, and soon, the pooch was pawing through the halls of Shriners Children's Lexington as a certified therapy dog, visiting kids with limb differences like him.
"Most visits occur in the clinic exam rooms, and the kids just light up when we walk in. Many of them get down on the floor to be closer to him, as do parents and siblings. Everyone is very curious about how he lost his leg," White says of what a typical visit with Chance entails.
The dog's "eager to please" personality means he is often delighted to get to work and help kids navigate living with a limb difference.
"He knows he is 'going to work' and gets excited as we're pulling into the parking lot of the hospital, White shares.
The families Chance visits are equally pleased to spend time with the dog.
"Meeting Chance was such an unexpectedly profound experience for our family," says Emily Yost, whose 4-year-old son, Arlo, is a prosthetics patient at Shriner Children's Lexington. "With Chance, I could tell there was another level of relatability and compassion coming from our son. He had a ton of questions after the visit about what happened to Chance and what we could do to help him further."
"We explained to Arlo that just like him, Chance is and will be OK and can do anything he puts his puppy mind to — just like Arlo does every day," she adds.
The hospital employees can also feel the positive shift that Chance brings with him.
"Seeing Chance takes away a lot of anxiety and stress around a lengthy visit to our prosthetics clinic," says Beth English, a certified therapeutic recreational therapist at the hospital. "A lot of visits for prosthetics can be over an hour long, so visiting with Chance gives patients and families something to look forward to. The smiles on the patients' and families' faces show it all."
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When Chance isn't working, he is still spending time with friends. At home, he is either stuck to White's side or playing with his rescue dog sibling, Sadie.
White hopes Chance's work inspires animal lovers to support therapy dog programs, which aren't only in hospitals but in nursing homes, schools, airports, libraries, and more as well.
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