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Sanford Medical Center’s Tail-Wagging Volunteers

January 14, 2014, 10:04 PM by Stephanie Gregory

Sanford Medical Center’s Tail-Wagging Volunteers

When you walk through the halls of Sanford Medical Center you can find many volunteers, but there are very few of the tail-wagging kind.

Boo, a pet therapy dog, has been cheering up patients for nearly five years. Boo's handler Jo Lawyer or as she calls herself, “the leash holder” says the duo's job is just making people happy.

"For a moment, a patient or a staff member, is going to get that good feeling. They are going to forget everything else and they are just going to feel good," Lawyer said.

Boo roams the halls at Sanford looking for patients. He can be found just about anywhere or in nearly anything. Boo is known to even dress up for Halloween or even wear a doctor’s outfit. It is just to get a smile or a laugh.

But, getting to where he is today has been a long road. The training Boo has been through to become a pet therapy dog is extensive. Pet therapy dogs have to be trained and tested before hitting the hospital floor.

"It is a very involved test because you are tested on meeting strangers, you are tested with medical equipment, you are tested with children and you're tested on how your manners are," Lawyer said.

Boo passed the pet therapy test with flying colors. Now, he visits with hospital patients, both young and old, delivering smiles from ear to ear.

"A lot of patients, they enjoy that break in their day and they always say thank you and Boo just loves it," Lawyer said.

For 11-year-old Cooper Dixon, being in the hospital is difficult but Boo's visits help remind him of home.

"I've been here for a week and I have my own dog, a bulldog, and I haven't seen her for a while," Dixon said.

Having a dog around makes Dixon's hospital stay just a bit easier to bear.

"It's pretty nice to have a dog here to pet," Dixon said.

There are currently 14 pet therapy volunteers who visit eight different areas at Sanford's Sioux Falls hospital. The program started five years ago.

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