Wagging tails and the occasional bark punctuated Franciscan Health’s third annual Pet Therapy Recognition Luncheon on Dec. 17 at Franciscan Health Crown Point’s Marian Education Center.
With 24 people and 14 dogs in attendance, the event has grown substantially from its first year when the pet therapy program began with six dogs. Today, 29 dogs are participating in the program with an additional four completing their training to join next year. Dogs must be certified by Therapy Dogs International or Alliance of Therapy Dogs to participate.
“We truly know what good the therapy does for our patients and our staff. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen patients just become more alert, wanting to get better when we brought a pet in,” Sister Marlene Shapley said at the opening of the luncheon.
Julie Canady, assistant in Franciscan’s marketing department, began the program and attended the luncheon with her therapy dog Meiko. Canady said on a recent visit to the emergency room, the family of a boy who was ill said he smiled for the first time in two days when he petted a therapy dog. “The dogs are able to bring happiness to others and maybe take away a little of the fear and anxiety of being in the hospital,” she said.
Mike and Becky Buchanan of Munster brought their therapy dog Maggie to the luncheon. Maggie, whose leg had to be amputated, specializes in helping kids going through physical therapy by demonstrating her own exercises. Becky Buchanan told the story of one girl whose mom told them that she “went to physical therapy and she said, ‘I want to work hard like Maggie does,’ and she’s made remarkable progress.”
The therapy dog program is currently at Franciscan Health Crown Point and Michigan City and will expand to Munster next.