By Lisa Carolin
(Publisher’s note: I have corrected the spelling of Thomas Maslak’s name throughout this story and apologize for the error.)
There’s a new face at Chelsea Hospital, and his name is Vincent (A.K.A Vinny), who was named for St. Vincent DePaul, patron saint of volunteers.
Vinny is a 15-month-old German Shepherd, who works with hospital employee, Officer Thomas Maslak. Thanks to a generous gift from the Chelsea Hospital Auxiliary, Maslak and Vinny have taken on the duties of pet therapy, outreach to patients and community, and safety.
“We felt Vinny would be an asset,” said LuAnn Koch, president of the Chelsea Auxiliary, which has 45 members, who volunteer and assist at the hospital gift shop.
The Chelsea Auxiliary has also funded such projects as the Cancer Center and Behavioral Health.
Maslak was presented with the opportunity to be Vinny’s canine handler.
“It was a totally new experience, and Vinny and I went through a 12-week training to prepare to come in the hospital,” said Maslak, who adds that the twosome will continue to train once a week for the rest of Vinny’s career. “Vinny is still a youngster and has a lot of energy. He was born and raised in Michigan, which is awesome.”
Vinny is very friendly and attentive to everything going on around him, and it’s important for Maslak to read the dog and see how he reacts to things.
“The hospital loves having him, and he interacts with staff, patients, and visitors,” said Maslak. “He’s also trained as an explosion detective dog, something we’re both trained to do.”
Maslak continues to have his full-time duties, but most of his time is spent going around to different areas of the hospital with Vinny to interact with people.
“Vinny is for the community,” said Maslak. “He is mine 24/7, and the job never stops. Shaping his behavior at work and at home is a constant. It’s very rewarding and amazing how intelligent he is.”