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People therapy for therapy dogs: Certified canines battling health issues get lots of pets, treats at TMC

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 9:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - They make regular visits to local hospitals, helping ease the suffering of those who are sick and stressed. For therapy dogs, this important task gives them a sense of purpose and routine.

However, two certified canines recently found themselves unable to work due to their own health issues. So, Tucson Medical Center staff and patients stepped up. Friday afternoon, it was people who provided the therapy to therapy dogs.

“Lets go, there you go,” said Sharon Raymond, as she guided Splash down a hallway.

It was the first time Splash set “paw” in TMC in over a month. A lot has changed since his last visit.

“He is completely blind,” Raymond told nurses.

Splash was recently diagnosed with sudden retinol atrophy.

During his trip to a patient waiting room, Splash was joined by Cody; another therapy dog. Cody is back at work after having a cancerous tumor removed from his thyroid.

“He was so glad to be back,” said Cody’s handler, Sharon Selvy.

The therapy pet handlers have been particularly focused on the pediatric ward. It’s a passion the two retired teachers share, as they seek try to ease children’s pain, if only for a moment.

“[Children] would get out of bed and walk [Splash and Cody],” said Selvy. “Sometimes the nurses would say, ‘This is the first time we have been able to get them out of bed.’”

TMC staff also got used to seeing Splash and Cody every second week. Many were grateful for their company during the pandemic.

“It gives you something to look forward to,” said Terrie Casteel, as she teared up. “There’s something positive [in this world].”

“It’s a great day for people to come see [Splash], instead of him going to see them,” Raymond said.

As TMC nurses and doctors seemingly smiled under their masks, the dogs seemed to smile, too.

It was Splash’s final assignment. His lack of sight has made it too difficult for him to continue visiting hospitals and schools. He walked out of TMC with nearly 11 years of service and 450 visits under his vest. Raymond says he retired a “good boy” for a job well done.

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