Roscoe the dog helps young Riley patients going through rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - There's a new top dog at Riley Hospital for Children.

"Roscoe" specializes in rehab and arrived with a strong pedigree. The two-year-old golden retriever is helping kids recover from strokes, injuries and more.

Thursday, Roscoe was back at the Riley gym to work with 7-year-old Jayce Mehling from St. Anthony, Indiana.

As Roscoe approached, Jayce's face lit up. Roscoe's owner, Denise Shalkowski, a nurse said, "Give him a hug. He missed you overnight, he's glad to see you."

Roscoe, though, began sniffing around Jayce's pockets...waiting for the small piece of bacon Jayce saved from breakfast.

Jayce has been at Riley for nearly a month. In early September, he had surgery to remove a brain tumor, a discovery his mother Sheryl called "totally unexpected and scary."

Since the surgery, Jayce has needed rehab to regain strength, balance and coordination. That's where Roscoe comes in.

His job to help Jayce do the therapy and exercises needed to fully recover.

Sheryl said she was delighted when she heard Roscoe would be part of her son's rehab team.

"I was very excited because I knew he'd be happy," she said. "I think it makes him want to go to therapy...when he sees Roscoe he smiles a lot."

Jayce has two dogs at home, but Roscoe's a different breed.

Watching Jayce stroke Roscoe's neck, Shalkowski said, "it's encouraging him to use both hands and arms and to do it without thinking."

Physical Therapist Angela Miller also has Jayce get out of his wheelchair, stand on one leg (with help) and throw a ball across the room, which Roscoe gladly fetches.

They do this several times. Roscoe also walks beside Jayce as he uses a walker to circle the room.

"Jayce doesn't even understand what we're working on but he's motivated to do whatever we ask him," she said.

Roscoe was trained by ICAN and joined Riley in June.

"It's very touching to see how he brightens the day...there's such a connection between kids and Roscoe," Shalkowski said.

After 45 minutes in the gym, Jayce and Roscoe were ready to call it a day. Roscoe's reward? A few treats.

Jayce's? Getting to hang out with boy's best friend and, in this case, mom's too.

"He helps me very much. I tried to talk them into letting Roscoe stay in the room with us, but it didn't work," she laughed.

But they would be back.