Patients at PeaceHealth medical center get a new furry friend

Galice and her handler Kim Lybecker grin for the camera. Photos courtesy of PeaceHealth.

The team at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center thinks it takes more than a doctor to motivate and inspire hospitalized patients in need of rehabilitative care – that’s why they’ve hired on a new four-legged canine assistant named Galice.

Staff with the Bellingham-based medical center made the announcement on December 21 after receiving a donation from a local family in partnership with Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit located in Santa Rosa, California.

“[Galice is] calm, docile, people-pleasing and approachable,” said her handler and physical therapist assistant at PeaceHealth Kim Lybecker in a statement. The duo completed extensive training prior to Galice’s hire in December.

Moving forward, Galice will provide individualized care to patients with rehabilitation needs.

She knows more than 40 commands and has proven skills in her ability to help patients develop gross motor, fine motor, balance and speech skills. Not only that, patients also improve muscle strength by playing fetch with her, dexterity by zipping and buttoning her vest and verbal confidence by giving her instructions.

“People want to get out of bed and work for a dog,” Lybecker said.

She recalls a time when a patient boosted her ability to walk from 20 feet at a time up to 100 feet when Galice was around.

Aside from providing comfort to patients, research shows that therapy dogs decrease patients’ pain levels and length of stay, particularly for patients who’ve undergone total joint replacement. To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence, visit or call 1-800/572-BARK.

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