Farmington hospital’s pet therapy program makes its return

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – Animal therapy is not only becoming increasingly common for hospital patients – that same level of support is also given to hospital employees at the San Juan Regional Medical Center.

The hospital’s popular dog therapy program has made its return after the pandemic. Every third morning, six therapy dogs are available to help brighten everyone’s day.

“Whenever I am around dogs, I feel good – my stress is reduced so they make me really happy,” Shanice Brown, a speech language pathologist, said.

Working at a hospital is not an easy job, so these dogs stop by to help relieve some stress.

“Where people need extra support, they’ll go up and lean on people, and that is a strong indication they are sensing fear, anxiety, stress, all of those types of things,” said Tessa Becker, the hospital’s manager of volunteer services.

All of the K-9’s are registered therapy dogs.

“Bodhi is a four-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever, I got him at the age of eight weeks and he became a registered therapy dog at 14 months, which is really pretty young,” Helen Taylor, therapy dog handler and hospital volunteer, said.

Taylor added that Bodhi loves his job.

“His big thing is to lean on people, he always likes to sit on your feet. If he’s sitting on your feet, he thinks you can’t go away,” she said.

It takes a certain kind of dog to be the right fit for the job. They have to be mild mannered, love people, and put their best paw forward.

“In my heart, I know these dogs are giving their all. When they go home after a visit, they are tired, they give everything,” Taylor said.