When Dr. Norman Knowlton retired from CoxHealth’s Diagnostic Clinic in 2013, he stopped practicing internal medicine on a daily basis. He didn’t, however, stop helping heal. Today, Dr. Knowlton still visits patients nearly every week – but now it’s with Lucy, his pet therapy dog.
In recognition of their efforts, Daily Point of Light has honored Dr.
Knowlton and Lucy for their service to patients at CoxHealth. The international
organization, which honors volunteers for the difference they make in their
communities, decided the duo was worthy of the award. However, Dr. Knowlton
says his efforts aren’t done to receive recognition.
“I have always felt volunteering is my duty to serve my community,
hospital and especially patients – and because it is the right thing to do,” he
Dr. Knowlton’s journey in pet therapy began eight years ago, before
he retired from medical practice. That was when he and his wife rescued Lucy,
who was being given away through an ad on Craigslist. The couple, involved with
Pet Therapy of the Ozarks, started training Lucy to be a pet therapist after
she earned her Canine Good Citizen certificate.
After passing all of the necessary exams, Lucy began making the
rounds with Dr. Knowlton after he retired four years ago. Today, the duo visits
patients around eight days each month, and they have become some of the most
popular visitors for patients. A few of the areas they visit include oncology,
neurology, radiation and infusion centers and Meyer Orthopedic and
“I’ve even tied her to the front of patients’
walkers and had her walk with them,” he says. He mentions another patient who
was recovering from a stroke. “I had her pet Lucy with the ‘bad’ side to build
Some of their biggest fans are members of staff, who crowd around to
pet Lucy the second she walks through the door. However, their real purpose and
joy comes from seeing patients. The duo enters each room quietly, giving
patients a chance to see Lucy before she approaches them.
The response, however, is often overwhelmingly positive.
There’s a man, weak and in bed, who isn’t too tired to smile when he
sees Lucy walk in. He reaches out and pets her head softly. Another woman,
missing her own dogs while in the hospital, is comforted by the sight of Lucy’s
furry face. It’s clear that simply her visit has left an impact on their days.
Looking back at his medical career, Dr. Knowlton says that pet
therapy is much different than when he was practicing medicine. After all, in
these cases, he doesn’t know patients personally. He doesn’t know their
backgrounds, or often even their names. But he does know one thing: He knows
that their interactions with Lucy make a difference.
“I won’t say it doesn’t bring you tears,” he says. “When you see a
patient who is dying, and you see the joy they get out of seeing Lucy, you sit
there and say, ‘Wow.’”