Beautiful Smiles, a family dentistry practice in West Hartford, has their very own therapy dog named Lucy, who assists patients with anxiety about going to the dentist.
By Ryley McGinnis
Beautiful Smiles family dentistry in West Hartford has all the typical bells and whistles of a modern dentist office – plus a wagging tail.
Lucy, Beautiful Smiles’ very own therapy dog, is a 4-year-old golden retriever whose favorite hobby is just to be around people, Dr. Robert Kievit told We-Ha.com. Kievit and his wife, Dr. Alyssa McIntyre Kievit, who are both dentists at the practice, got Lucy when she was just a puppy and originally didn’t plan on getting her certified as a therapy dog.
“She was originally just going to be our family dog,” said Kievit. “But now it’s great that we can bring her to work with us some days.”
Lucy had to attend eight weeks of training and pass two exams, one with Kievit and one with his wife since they are separate handlers. Lucy can be found lying in her bed or strewn across the tile floor behind a gate near the front desk of the practice. Lucy isn’t let out into the practice without permission from patients and must have one of her handlers close by.
“We let her out and she’ll go to the people at the front desk, go sit with them in the waiting room and just distract them,” said Kievit. He said that he has seen direct improvements in patients’ anxieties about going to the dentist. “There’s a high level of patients who have anxiety about going to the dentist, so with Lucy here it’s like they’re just going to see her and it helps,” said Kievit.
Kievit said that it’s not just kids or adults that utilize Lucy to reduce anxiety; a wide range of patients like to see her. Some may not even have that much anxiety, but still think it’s just nice to see and pet a dog, said Kievit.
Both Kievit and his wife graduated from dental school at the University of Connecticut in Farmington in 2013. They bought Beautiful Smiles in January of 2018 and have been bringing Lucy in from the start.
And as for Lucy, she never “works” a day in her life. Kievit said Lucy loves to be around people, and never likes to be alone. “She’s always excited to come to the practice and spend time with people,” said Kievit.
For patients with allergies or a fear of dogs, Lucy is kept completely separate from them when they come in or Lucy doesn’t come to the office that day at all. They make a note in the chart, and make sure to accommodate each patient, said Kievit.
“The biggest thing is the fur, sometimes it’s like she’s molting she sheds so much,” Kievit said. Kievit said a cleanup crew comes in and vacuums up all the fur on the floor (and sometimes the walls) that Lucy leaves behind before the next business day to keep the practice clean.
Outside of work, Kievit said he hopes to get more involved with Lucy in the community, and it seems that as long as Lucy is around people, she will be happy.
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