Dog with Prosthetic Paw Inspires Patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North

April 07, 2014

Journey is one of six pet therapy dogs that regularly volunteer at the facility

     Lutz, Fla. (April 7, 2014) - It’s hard not to smile when you see Journey making his rounds of St. Joseph’s Hospital-North on Tuesday evenings. This Golden Retriever was born without his front left paw and walks from room to room with the help of a prosthesis. Journey is one of six therapy dogs that regularly visit patients at the hospital.

     The pet therapy program began at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in July 2013 and is a huge hit among patients, who receive a trading card featuring their four-legged visitor as a memento of the visit. A pet therapy session typically lasts about five minutes and consists of the patient petting or holding the dog. This can reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. The dogs also provide comfort, entertainment and a positive distraction not just to the patient, but to friends and family that are visiting. Journey’s owner, Ron Graff, jokes that he is just a guy at the end of the leash and Journey does all the work.

     Other therapy dogs include Bella, a Cavalier King Spaniel, who rolls up to patient rooms like a princess in her pink stroller and Charlie, also a Cavalier King Spaniel, who entertains patients by performing tricks for treats. After visiting with Charlie, one patient commented that she hoped she was in the hospital next week so she could see him again.

     All of the therapy dogs receive training, certification and vaccinations before joining the team. Once on board the dogs get an official badge and clock in and out, usually staying at the hospital about two hours. Some dogs, like Charlie, have logged hundreds of volunteer service hours.

     No matter what patients are going through many find it easier to cope after being visited by a therapy dog, especially one like Journey that has overcome an obstacle to bring joy to others.

     To speak with a pet therapy volunteer and learn more about the program call (813) 554-8216.