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Posted on Friday, June 1st, 2012

Bruised but not Broken: Spirit the Therapy Dog

Spirit the Therapy DOg

The role of therapy dogs in medicine has expanded dramatically over the past decade, and the road to become one of these service animals is long and winding for some. Spirit, a therapy dog working in New York City under the care of trainer Linda Koebner, was adopted from Shreveport, Louisiana, after he was abused as a puppy. The mutt wasn’t given much of a chance by his previous owners, but Koebner has worked with him and he now has the friendly and accessible demeanor that therapy dogs require. According to ABCNews.com, Spirit was recently on a trip to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx to visit a few patients.

“The dog makes a whole lot of difference. My arm was stinging [for repeated blood draws] but it don’t bother me no more,” Archibald Downer, a 65-year-old plumber on dialysis, told the news source. “Every day, I ask the doctor if I can leave. But the dog changed my mind.”

A trip to Montefiore is one of many stops for Spirit, who visits intensive care wards and participates in animal-assisted therapy for children who have suffered abuse or as a morale booster during cancer treatment. For many of the physicians working at the hospital, therapy dogs like Spirit have helped put patients’ minds at ease and feel more comfortable in the environment, reports WLSam.com.

“It brings us closer not only to the patient, but to their family, as well,” Dr. Rose Guilbe, medical director of the palliative care unit of Montefiore Medical Center, told the news outlet. “It creates a nicer working environment and takes away from the stiffness of medicine.

“Spirit has undergone an extensive training program and goes through a series of safety protocols before entering each hospital. His paws are thoroughly disinfected before entering each facility and he is required to be on a leash at all times and even carries a photo ID. But when he enters a hospital room and begins to interact with patients, doctors believe that it can play an enormous role in limiting anxiety and easing pain. Spirit is one of many therapy dogs that are revolutionizing how doctors and patients alike look at the healthcare practice, and he is just one of many progressive treatment methods that will let patients know that they’re in good hands.