Therapy dogs bring happiness to hospitals, helping patients recover faster

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — Helping patients recover faster doesn't always require a medical degree; sometimes you just need a patient disposition and a furry face.

For the last 10 years, therapy dogs have been making the rounds at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, picking up where traditional medicine leaves off. In that time, doctors and nurses noticed patients are not just more relaxed, but also healing faster.

Teddy, a golden doodle, may not be a "medical resident" but he does carry a hospital staff badge. It usually takes Teddy just a few minutes to win over patients during their visitations.

“The first time they asked I said no because I don’t really know dogs that well,” patient Carol Toorner said. “It’s very nice and he’s very well behaved.”

Teddy doesn’t take vitals or dual out medicine. He’s just here to keep your feet warm. And in that moment, patients relax and continue down to road to recovery.

"We do a lot of giving medicine and treating the patient but there is a lot more. Emotionally, spiritually… All of that’s very important,” nurse Jennifer Bures said.

Around 98 days after Patricia Goosens’ bone marrow transplant, she finally felt well enough to cuddle up to a dog like hers back at home.

“ I have a dog. She’s half cocker spaniel and half poodle,” Goosens said. “Yes it helps... just the interaction reminds me of petting Bella and I miss her a lot.”

Teddy and a handful of other dogs visit the hospital several days a week, visiting dozens of patients.

"When you walk in, their face brightens up and they smile. If we can make them feel better even if it’s just for a few minutes, then we’ve done our job," said Cindy Gross, Rainbow Therapy Dogs.