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Cedar Valley Dental Associates CEO Aaron Brummer is training 4-month-old Maya to become a certified therapy dog to help anxious dental patients.

CEDAR FALLS — For now, it’s a wiggly hello to staff at Cedar Valley Dental Associates.

But it won’t be long before Maya will help ease the fears of anxious patients at the dental office.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive; everyone here loves her,” said Aaron Brummer, CVDA chief executive officer.

Maya is a 4-month-old rescue pup in training to be a certified therapy dog. She’s the perfect addition to a dental practice whose motto is “We cater to cowards.”

“I definitely think she will help, especially with kids who might be afraid,” said Steph Franzen, a dental hygienist at the practice.

Helping others is simply Maya returning the favor.

She was one of a litter of six brought to Iowa from Missouri by Cedar Valley Pit Bull Rescue. The mother and her pups were living outside during the December cold snap. The puppies had worms and were grossly underweight. An animal welfare group convinced the owner to part with the litter and promise to have the mother spayed.

CVPBR recruited several families to foster the puppies. Maya, a lab/pit bull mix, eventually landed in the able hands of longtime foster Julie Schmickley of Cedar Rapids.

“As soon as I saw her I thought, ‘this dog needs to be a therapy dog,’” Schmickley said. “She is so smart and so gentle. I needed to get this dog adopted.”

Along came the Brummer family. Aaron and his wife, Dr. Megan Brummer, a dentist at CVDA, saw Maya’s photo on the pit bull rescue website and were smitten.

“We didn’t know when we met her that she would be a good candidate for a service dog, but she was very calm and relaxed,” Aaron said.

The Brummers are now training Maya for her new duty — to sit calmly with patients while they receive dental treatment. She’s already sailed smoothly through some trial runs.

“She not bothered by noises; she just sits quietly,” Aaron said.

Studies show the presence of a dog reduces anxiety in people. Therapy dogs are widely used in hospitals and other health facilities, and have begun cropping up in dental practices across the country.

“As far as I know, we are the only (dental practice) in the area to have a therapy dog,” Aaron said.

Maya has acclimated nicely to the dental clinic. She’s gated in Aaron’s office, and, once certified, will be available to patients who ask for her.

“It’s entirely by request,” Aaron said. “She does not roam around the office.”

If Maya’s social media following is any indication, she’ll be getting lots of requests from CVDA patients. She’s got lots of fans on Facebook and Instagram. Her moniker is CVDAMaya on both platforms.

Schmickley, a self-professed dental phobe, has decided to switch providers and make the drive to Cedar Falls for dental treatment.

“I am terrified of the dentist,” she said. “But Maya just seems so wise, so smart. She’s going to make so many people so happy.”


Lifestyles and Features Editor

Lifestyles Editor for The Courier

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