Pet Therapy Offers Non-Traditional Healing

The name is Charlie. The furry K9 is eleven years old and has been a therapy pet for more than half his life.

"He takes this really seriously; he looks at it like a job," says pet therapy volunteer Deb Orley. "His whole demeanor changes when we hit the hospital doors. He knows that he's here to do a job."

Pet therapy is usually given to long-term patients, like Larry Galster, who has a bone infection and recently had an amputation at St. Alexius.

"It's always nice because you get somebody to talk to, somebody that appreciates you back. So, it's a fun thing," says Galsted.

Now, not just any pooch can become a therapy pet. These dogs have to be certified by the American Kennel Club before any interaction with a patient takes place.

"They have to have obedience, but they also have to be calm in situations like wheelchairs and different noises all different things," says Orley.

Of course, not every patient is a fan of pets, but St. A's employees say, most of the time, people love the company.

"Their face brightens up, they get a smile," says Chris Bartels of St. Alexius. "All of a sudden everything that's gone through the whole day is suddenly gone because this little dog is there."

So, there you have it. Pet therapy may be a non-traditional type of healing, but it's a kind that brings a little cheer into that possibly dreary hospital room.

Report by Mark Charter