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Heal, Buddy: Compassionate canine provides puppy love

buddy therapy dog

“Hey Buddy!” “Buddy’s here!” “Look it’s Buddy!”

Bob Peterson is used to the attention his therapy dog, Buddy, gets every time he steps into St. Francis Hospital to visit patients and staff.

“I know I’m just the guy with the leash and it doesn’t bother me at all,” said Peterson, Buddy’s owner and hospital volunteer.

Buddy, is a five-year-old, yellow lab and a pretty special, trained therapy dog. Buddy started making weekly visits to St. Francis in January, 2015 and is well-known with a growing fan base.

A therapy dog is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, or retirement and nursing homes, and to people with learning difficulties or in stressful situations.

Buddy brings smiles to dozens of patients on several floors but it might be when Buddy reaches the Mental Health and Addiction unit on the seventh floor that his impact is most felt.

Lisa McInnes, Occupational Therapist, has seen firsthand how Buddy can get patients out of their rooms to interact with him: “Buddy is here to bring unconditional love regardless of age, language, literacy, or socioeconomic background. After a therapy session with Buddy, I’ve seen a reduction in stress, improved moods, and better communication skills. You can see the tension just melt when patients are engaged petting or playing with him.”

Therapy dogs are used to benefit patients suffering with emotional and behavioral disorders, depression, autism, substance abuse, and dementia.

“Animals accept us as we are. They don’t judge, so patients can interact with them safe in the knowledge that there is no hidden agenda. Buddy can make just about anyone smile, but when you’re hurting he’ll also give you a hug and lick your tears,” said Peterson.

Many patients find hospital stays lonely and stressful. A visit from a therapy dog like Buddy can help by providing a connection to the outside world. When Buddy walks into their room, they know somebody cares.

“It’s amazing to me how people open up when they see Buddy. I learn all kinds of things about people’s lives. I know Buddy is making a positive impact on patients who need a lift or someone to talk to. It’s very rewarding work,“ said Peterson.

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