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K-9 pet therapy program brings joy to patients at Sparrow Hospital

Penny Russell and Lilo
Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 08:51:18-04

LANSING, Mich. — If you are ever at Sparrow Hospital, you'll notice the staff and caregivers, but you'll also see some furry, four-legged cuties doing an important job as well.

The K-9 Pet Therapy Program at Sparrow Hospital started back in February and is helping patients with stress and anxiety. The dogs are trained and are monitored by their handlers as they walk to different departments, including the emergency department.

Right now, the program has nine volunteer dogs, and their first full-time therapy dog's name is Lilo. Lilo is a Bernedoodle, and you can tell she is happy when she grabs her leash.

For eight hours a day, Lilo gets to walk the hospital halls, meet with patients and give caregivers some love too.

"These dogs are here to give joy and relieve stress, and they know when you need it. Lilo absolutely knows when we walk in certain rooms that person needs her, and she will go right to them she will put her head in their laps. These dogs are special," said pet therapy K-9 handler Penny Russell.

Having Lilo at the hospital has been a hit. She always has requests from department managers, and they have to make sure her schedule is set up so she can see everyone.

"It's pretty special to hear when Penny comes back from the emergency room the stories of the pediatric patients who were crying, and then Lilo walks in, and then immediately their level of anxiety goes down and they calm down. And then our caregivers are able to complete the procedures that they need to," said Sparrow Hospital Operations Manager Sarah Sossou.

The dogs also have cute trading cards. Patients can collect all 10 and learn cool facts about each dog.

Sossou says they hope to expand the program in the future.

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