'You can’t help but smile when you see Koda coming down the hallway,' said Kim Bissing, pet therapy manager for Orlando Health.
Jena McKinstry was out shopping one day when she spotted a little red battery-powered toy car. She instantly knew it would be the perfect accessory for her 7-year-old Pomeranian, Koda the Fluff. "I saw this car on display. I said 'Oh my gosh she would fit in that and it would be so cute,'" McKinstry told WKMG-TV. A few month later she began taking videos of Koda driving around the house and her driveway in her swanky new ride. Almost instantly, she started noticing people pulling their cars over so they could take photos with the adorable canine.
"I said 'This is something. This isn't just me enjoying this. Other people really like this,'" McKinstry said. "She's like a little marshmallow. That's why we call her 'The Fluff.'" Soon, she began regularly sharing photos and videos of Koda riding her "Fur-rrari" to the canine's "Koda the Fluff" social media profiles and the response was resoundingly positive. She also started taking her furry friend out to businesses in her toy car that has a cup holder attached to hold a "pup-uccino" coffee. "It's different, you've probably never seen a dog rolling in a convertible with the radio blaring oldies," McKinstry said.
"I really love her on social media because she can impact millions of people and make their day better," she added. "We can only visit a limited amount of people but through her videos, we can impact the world. She has followers on every continent." Although McKinstry had plans to train Koda for pet therapy a couple of years ago, the pandemic put these plans on hold as hospitals couldn't allow visitors and volunteers inside. Still, Koda continued to spread smiles across the world through her adorable videos during those dark times.
Eventually, Koda began visiting schools, first responders and hospitals where she now makes regular appearances as a certified therapy pet. "You can’t help but smile when you see Koda coming down the hallway," said Kim Bissing, pet therapy manager for Orlando Health. "Nobody steers away from these guys when they come through." Bissing explained that pet therapy has been proven to lower blood pressure and increase endorphins in people in hospital settings and that Koda has added a unique take to their program. "We had to get really creative during COVID. We had a no-touch protocol," she said.
Koda presented a unique opportunity to make a difference from a distance as she is able to roll by people's rooms in her car and make them smile without getting too close. "She's a naturally calm dog and I've worked with her a ton," McKinstry revealed. As their popularity increased, McKinstry and Koda also got the opportunity to work with police departments on driver safety education and awareness. McKinstry shared that since her social media feed is often full of advertisements and other things that don't always make her happy, she wanted to contribute something positive to the cacophony online.
"Koda is out there and her only purpose is to bring happiness," McKinstry said. "If you're in the hospital, something is going on with you or a loved one. So to be able to see a positive distraction and have a pet roll in that's just something to give you a mental break from whatever you are dealing with. That's incredible, very impactful... It's probably one of the most rewarding things I've done. I'm always encouraging people to get into pet therapy. It's such a good program. There's nothing more rewarding than just focusing on making other people happy."