A teeny-tiny dog is on a big mission at Cox Branson as he trains to be the medical center’s first pet therapy animal.
Gus is a teacup Yorkie who, at 2.8 pounds, is already bringing comfort and joy to plenty of patients on his path to becoming certified by the American Kennel Clubs as an official pet therapy dog.
Adene Smith, director of Nursing at Cox Branson, started taking Gus to a support group she leads for brain injury patients when he was just a puppy. “I noticed he has a very mild personality and, more importantly, he makes people happy,” says Smith. Gus will need to go through various obedience-training classes as well as complete 50 visits at the hospital to complete his certification. Smith will take him around to visit patients every Friday to log those required hours.
According to American Kennel Clubs, pets have incredible healing power. Trained animals reduce stress, boost self-esteem and cheer up patients. Gus has already made rounds to Cox Branson’s Adult Psych unit, where he visibly helped ease patients’ anxiety, and he sat on plenty of laps at the Cancer Center as patients received chemotherapy.
For one of the hospital’s critical care patients, Gus was a game changer. “I just can’t help but smile when he’s on my lap,” says Thelma Adkins of Hollister as she strokes the puppy’s face. “Doggies love us no matter what. He can tell I needed this hug today.”