Roswell Park's Therapy Dogs "Paws" to Offer Some Lovin'

Pictured: Nitro, a Doberman pinscher, gets a well-deserved hug from pediatric cancer survivor Nya Ricks.

A poodle asked a collie the names of two new dogs in the neighborhood. "Rolex and Timex," replied the collie.

"Whoever heard of naming dogs like that?!" exclaimed the poodle.

Said the collie, "They're watch dogs."

There are jokes, short stories, novels and films about our society's love for our four-legged friend, the dog. Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” and in fact, some studies have shown that being around dogs can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve blood pressure and boost emotional well-being, among other benefits. At Roswell Park, we utilize therapy dogs as part of our patient and family experience. Therapy dog volunteers offer our patients a much-needed distraction from treatment-related worries.

For the past eight years, volunteer Kelly Gleber has been making the rounds at Roswell Park with Taz, a golden retriever. “I just knew he had the perfect temperament and wanted to share him with other people because he makes me feel good,” says Gleber. “I love the way people’s eyes light up when they see him. They’re so appreciative to have him here, to help them forget why they’re here, at least for a moment.

“Patients have grown to love Taz, and search us out. Some people say jokingly that they move their appointments around so they’ll be here when Taz is!” She adds that Taz’s half-brother, five-month-old Hawk, will eventually follow in Taz’s footsteps.

You’ll see our therapy dogs in the lobbies and hallways of the hospital and the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center, usually between 9 a.m.-noon. The dogs also visit the solariums on the sixth and seventh floors of the hospital, where patients who have permission from the nursing staff are invited to stop by to pet or cuddle a furry friend. (Before a therapy dog and its owner arrive in a clinic waiting room or other enclosed area, a volunteer will announce their arrival. If anyone has allergies, is nervous around dogs, or has other concerns, the dog will move along to another visiting area.)

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It’s always OK to walk right up to the dogs and say hello. They all wear official Roswell Park photo ID tags to help you identify them. Taz’s canine colleagues include Porsche (goldendoodle), Chloe (golden retriever), Maggie (border collie), Miki (bichon), Murphy (Portuguese water dog), Bailey (goldendoodle), Pepper (black lab), Nitro (Doberman pinscher), Cara (whippet), and Teva (Labrador retriever). Check this month’s patient calendar to find out when your favorite dog is scheduled to visit.

All therapy dogs participating in the Roswell Park program are certified through Therapy Dogs International or Pet Partners. (If you think your dog might be a good fit for the program, those two organizations can provide information about what it takes to get certified.)