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A Patient’s Best Friend

Silver Cross Hospital Offers Pet Therapy

The comforting affects of animals have been noticed through the years. Even Florence Nightingale recommended “a small pet animal” as an “excellent companion for the sick” and Laura Valencik, director of volunteer services at Silver Cross Hospital, agrees. She has been hard at work in creating a comprehensive pet therapy program at the hospital and is excited for patients to experience the healing effects of a wagging tail. 

Silver Cross currently has several dogs visiting patients in the hospital including Sadie, a cocker spaniel/terrier mix. Without a home for almost the first year of her life, Sadie was taken to a kill shelter as a puppy before being rescued by A Caring Place Humane Society in Darien. But it wasn't until March of 2009, that she learned the power of love and companionship. It was this day that she was adopted by New Lenox resident and a retired first grade teacher, Sylvia Erickson.

sadie"She was very scared, that's what I first noticed," Erickson said. "When I got her, I knew she was a very quiet dog, and eventually her personality came out and now that she's not scared anymore she wants to find out about everything.  She wants everyone to be her friend."

The duo started with beginner obedience at New Lenox's Stone City Kennel Club moving through the classes before heading to Joliet Junior College where Sadie earned her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certificate in September 2009. Erickson said she never thought at first about training Sadie as a therapy dog, but after watching her continued success she decided to take the next step and enroll Sadie in classes through Touch of Heeling Therapy Dogs in Manhattan.

As a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International (TDI), Sadie and her owner walk the halls at Silver Cross Hospital and stop in to visit patients who need a little cheering up.

Photo Caption:  Michelle Powers (center) of New Lenox and her family (left to right) Kathryn, Brandon, Ashlyn & Chris receive a friendly visit from Sadie, certified pet therapy dog at Silver Cross Hospital.

"She's very, very good with the patients," Erickson said. "She'll lay her head in the laps of people in wheelchairs. We're working on having her put just her two front paws up the beds so patients can pet her."

Patients agree. This past August, Michelle Power of New Lenox suffered from sharp pains in her abdomen and was suffering from pancreatitis.

“I had suffered from these attacks for three years,  This time, it affected my pancreas, and my doctors were determined to find out what was going on.”

After a few days of testing, doctors removed her gallbladder. During Power’s five-day stay at Silver Cross, Sadie offered her great relief. “I love dogs, so it was nice to play with Sadie and take my mind off recovery. She’s great with my kids too,” said Power.

Sadie's happiness is contagious, and she, along with several other pet therapy dogs, are available for visits during the week. Patients are encouraged to request a visit if they are interested in a dose of puppy love during their stay at Silver Cross.  To learn more about Pet Therapy or if you are interested in sharing your certified TDI pet therapy dog with Silver Cross Hospital, please contact the Volunteer Services office at (815) 740-7117. To read more about Sadie, follow her personal blog.

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