Hospital's therapy dog program needs 4-pawed volunteers

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By Meghan Schiller

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Memorial Hospital is looking for volunteers with four legs because the hospital's therapy dog program is so popular it's expanding.

The hospital wants to add four more teams in the next few weeks, but say they're always looking for new dogs to help get certified because there's never a shortage of patients.

Kody, Argos and Samantha are therapy dogs that visited the hospital this week.

Studies show that therapy dogs can really help patients.

"I had a stroke and I've been here about a week and a half. I get to go home tomorrow," said Bobbie Bartell.

"It's like a morale booster when you're in here," said Larry Grenert.

Grenent needed that boost to recover from a stroke that temporarily paralyzed the left side of his body.

"I've been in here five weeks going on six," said Grenert.

The therapy dogs must be at least two years old, trained to be calm in a crowd and comfortable with strangers.

Lucky for Samantha, a Newfoundland, there's no weight limit.

"She weighs about 122 pounds and when she's full grown she'll be about 140-150 pounds," said Samantha's owner Ron Clauser.

But don't tell her that, Samantha still thinks she's a lapdog.

Some of Samantha's favorite friends are on the pediatric oncology floor.

"When people walk into the hospital, it's a scary place, so seeing a dog inside a hospital is something that reminds them of home, it helps their blood pressure go down, they relax. It's just a wonderful, comforting thing," said Pam Sandy, Ambassador Coordinator for Volunteer Services.

Sandy coordinates the program and she'd love to see more four legged therapists roaming these halls.

"If they don't have a certified therapy dog, we are happy to tell them the 2 organizations that we take certifications from. We don't do the certifying, but we can help them on the process," said Sandy.

A rewarding process, not only a "treat" for patients but for the dogs as well.

If you have a dog who may be up to the task, call the hospital and ask for volunteer services.
 

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