Navy Therapy Dog Promoted to Vice Admiral

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Laura Lee, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), is promoted to vice admiral by Surgeon General of the Navy Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan during a ceremony held at the medical center, Sept. 3.  Lee and other facility dogs are part of a program dedicated to assisting wounded warriors and other hospital patients with their recovery. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Benton, chief, Facilities Management Department, WRNMMC)

In a ceremony held at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) Bethesda, Surgeon General of the Navy Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan “promoted” Laura Lee, a facility therapy dog, to the rank of vice admiral, Sept. 3.

The WRNMMC Facility Dogs Program provides unique therapy for patients of all ages, and the dogs and their handlers provide one-on-one interaction with patients in a controlled setting to ensure comfort, theraputic value, and an interactive experience. The program, which began in 2001 as a pilot to provide therapy to patients, is intended to provide canine companionship to wounded warriors, veterans, active duty military, and dependents.

Lee currently works Monday through Friday from 0730 – 1600. She loves to stroll through the hospital visiting waiting rooms, especially the pediatrics area. She is utilized in various dog assisted therapy care throughout the hospital, including Pediatrics, Resiliency Program, Warrior Care, Breast Care Center, and University of Health Sciences.

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Known for her “can do” spirit, Laura Lee, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), looks around to offer her assistance after she was promoted to vice admiral by Surgeon General of the Navy Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan during a ceremony held at the medical center, Sept. 3.  Lee and other facility dogs are part of a program dedicated to assisting wounded warriors and other hospital patients with their recovery. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Benton, chief, Facilities Management Department, WRNMMC)

The dogs, which were purpose-bred by Southeastern Guide Dogs, spend about 14 months with a volunteer puppy raiser who teaches basic obedience and socialization skills. Upon their return to Southeastern, formal guide dog training, which lasts four to six months, teaches the pups what they need to know for their new career. The choice of career is based on individual temperament, and if the original choice does not work out, for whatever reason, the dogs are given a career change. Southeastern has placed dogs with the blind, veterans, firefighters and policemen, as well as with hospitals for therapy dogs.

Lee is a 10-year-old Golden Retriever and the first facility dog in the WRNMMC Command Facility Dog Program. Check out Lee’s official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lauralee.barry.

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“Vice Admiral” Laura Lee hanging around with some of her facility therapy friends. (Courtesy photo by Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

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