Therapy Dog Bringing Smiles to Miles of Fur in Central Florida

Some of the best ideas come on the spur of the moment and sometimes they just don’t seem like much at the time.

When Jena McKinstry decided to put her 7-year-old Pomeranian, “Koda The Fluff”, in a toy car, she couldn’t have realized the impact it would have on others.

Turns out a little dog in a battery-powered car is a recipe for smiles.

Through the power of social media, these smiles have been shared around the world, creating a unique form of pet therapy.

“I was out shopping one day,” McKinstry said. “And I saw this car on display. I said, ‘Oh my God, she would fit in it and it would be so cute.'”

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So McKinstry bought the toy and kept it for about four months before deciding to do some videos with Koda driving around the house and in her driveway. It was then that she noticed people stopping their cars to take pictures with Koda.

“I said, ‘That’s something. It’s not just me who likes it. Other people really like it,'” McKinstry said.

“She’s like a little marshmallow. That’s why we call it “The Fluff,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry began posting their videos under the Koda The Fluff account. Simple first shots of her riding through the house. Then she started taking Koda to businesses.

Koda drives around in her red convertible. McKinstry calls him a “Fur-rrari”. The little dog is wearing sunglasses and a cup holder attached to the car holds a “pup-uccino” coffee.

“It’s different, you’ve probably never seen a dog ride in a convertible with the radio howling,” McKinstry said.

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Others agree. Koda developed a global following.

“I really love her on social media because she can impact millions of people and make their day better,” McKinstry said. “We can only visit a limited number of people, but through his videos we can impact the world. She has followers on all continents.

Two years ago, McKinstry planned to train Koda in pet therapy, but the pandemic put that on hold when hospitals couldn’t allow visitors and volunteers inside.

But these videos gave people a reason to smile during tough times.

Soon Koda The Fluff was visiting schools, first responders and eventually hospitals where she now makes regular appearances as a Certified Therapy Pet.

Kim Bissing, pet therapy manager for Orlando Health, said Koda added a unique approach to the program.

“You can’t help but smile when you see Koda coming down the hall,” Bissing said. “Nobody walks away from these guys when they come in.”

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Bissing said pet therapy is proven to lower blood pressure and increase endorphins in people in hospital settings.

“We had to get really creative during COVID. We had a contactless protocol,” Bissing said.

Koda has created a unique opportunity to make a difference remotely. Because she’s in a car, she’s able to drive into people’s rooms and make them happy without getting too close. A contactless experience.

“She’s a naturally calm dog and I’ve worked with her a lot,” McKinstry said.

Koda has even made special personal appearances upon request. That’s how she met Cole and Darla Podliski. The two were following Koda’s social media feed.

“They were so lovely. They’re so sweet and Cole had been sick again with bad bronchitis and a sinus infection,” Darla Podliski said, explaining that her 15-year-old son was going through a tough time. things at school and he had just started.”

So Podliski contacted McKinstry and said it would make Cole’s day if Koda came to visit.

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“They came to our house and brought him a ball and some sweets. Koda was in her little red car interacting with Cole. It meant the world to him,” Darla Podliski said. “We also just lost our dog and that helped him a lot that day.”

The visit made such an impression that Darla Podliski nominated McKinstry and Koda for the News 6 Getting Results Award.

“The joy she brought to Cole, who was so disappointed to miss so much. The therapeutic value it brings to so many people. It had to be recognized,” she said.

McKinstry and Koda have also worked with police departments on driver safety education and awareness.

McKinstry said her social media feed is often full of ads and other things that don’t always make her happy. She wanted to bring something positive.

She calls it digital pet therapy.

“Koda is out there and her sole purpose is to bring happiness,” McKinstry said. “If you are in the hospital, something is going on with you or a loved one. So being able to see a positive distraction and having a pet is just something to give you a mental break from whatever you’re dealing with. It’s amazing, very impactful.

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McKinstry hopes to develop the concept through its non-profit organization, Smiles Fur Miles.

McKinstry encourages other well-behaved dog owners to participate in pet therapy.

“It’s probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done,” McKinstry said. “I always encourage people to get into pet therapy. It’s such a good program. There is nothing more rewarding than focusing solely on making others happy.

Interested persons can find more information and apply for the pet therapy program at OrlandoHealth.com

There is no charge to request a Koda the Fluff appearance. McKinstry asks you to visit Koda the Fluff’s Facebook page or website: www.KodaTheFluff.com

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