SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Some special visitors made the rounds at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend Sunday afternoon. That was where the hospital held its Annual Holiday Woof Party in honor of pet therapy dogs.
The hospital wanted to commend some pooches and their owners for their service to all the Sacred Heart patients. About six teams of dogs and owners were there to soak it all up while continuing to spread the cheer throughout the hospital halls.
People come in and out of the doors at Sacred Heart Medical Center every day. Many also end up calling the hospital home as they work to restore their health and the stay isn’t always easy. But these days, patients have a little help getting through it all. They now have some furry friends working to bring joy to the sometimes stressful medical environment.
Traveller, a rescue Gordon Setter, is one of them. His partner is Lauri Holts, who has been at this since 2009.
“The benefits of pet therapy are just amazing. It’s the most gratifying kind of work I’ve ever done,” said Holts. “I’ve had people start petting my dog and just bury their head in their fur crying because it’s such a stress relief to touch an animal in a hospital setting.”
The team has brought smiles to many including 5-year-old Kaden Conger, a little boy with Type I diabetes, as well as autism.
Kaden’s father Russell Conger said, “It’s kind of hard for him to take the needles and check the fingers, but he’s doing pretty good and with the dog coming around. It really helps him out.”
Volunteers said it’s not just the patient who is impacted. These quiet animals are bringing joy to everyone within the hospital walls.
“It’s heartwarming to actually see him smile for once while we’ve been here, because he’s been kinda sad. So to actually see him smile brings a smile to our face too,” said Russell Conger.
There are about 25 pairs that work the hospital year-round. If you’re interested in joining the team or just want to learn more about the program, click here.