BAXTER BULLETIN:
BILLY JEAN LOUIS , blouis [at] baxterbulletin [dot] com
Published 6:22 p.m. CT Jan. 18, 2017

(Photo: JOSH DOOLEY/The Baxter Bulletin)

Barney, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is an entertainer who enjoys doing tricks, such as rolling over, playing dead and giving people high-fives. The tricolored animal — white, black and brown patches — licks to greet.

His talents are put to use. His brother, Andy, along with Katie — a mini silver Poodle — are all members of Paws of Love Therapy Dogs, a program that’s helping patients at Baxter Regional Medical Center who are going through therapy to release endorphins and lower their blood pressure.

Barney enjoys greeting people and whines when people don’t want to say hi — he also hunts. Andy likes to greet as well. Katie is reserved, however.
Co-founder and coordinator for Paws of Love Therapy Dogs Lynda Dudek said the program is a year old. A member of Alliance of Therapy Dogs, joining the Paws of Love Therapy Dogs require owners to have their dogs trained, take a test and complete paperwork. Dudek wants each dog to get along.

It’s not about the breed, she said. It’s about the dog’s personality. She encourages people to call Canine Angels at 404-6957 for training.
“I can’t think of a better way to give back to the community,” she said. The rural Mountain Home woman, along with her husband, Walter Dudek Jr., and Charles Polacek, wore white long-sleeved shirts, red vests and khaki pants.

At about 1 p.m. Tuesday, they stopped at BRMC’s acute rehabilitation unit, located on the third floor, to allow patients pet the dogs. They entered the room energetically with little hearts attached to their neck.
Paws of Love Therapy Dogs volunteers make sure the dogs are safe at all times during each visit. They need to be protected when patients are petting them because some patients cannot see clearly. If a dog seems tired, it will be removed.

The program has received positive feedback. Both patients and administrators have expressed gratitude toward Dudek. Depending on how many patients the hospital has on therapy that day, the dogs visit one to 20. The therapy dogs visit the hospital twice a month, and patients are given the choice to pet them at no cost. Some pet the dogs, some don’t.

Jack Richardson of Pyatt, who’s been hospitalized for a week, likes the therapy dogs — he owns seven. They’re at home, he said, and he missed them. His dogs are his best friends. “I think it’s relaxing,” he said after he got done petting the dogs. He high-fived Barney, asking that the dogs get treats because they’re “good.” He claimed dogs are smarter than people. “If you work with them, they’ll get smarter,” he said.
LuWaun Day, of Flippin, said the animals provide companionship, and she loves them. It was the first time she had the opportunity to pet the therapy dogs. She’s been at the hospital for a week because she has heart problems. The 81-year-old owns cats and said she missed them. She added “it is nice” that the volunteers brought the dogs to the hospital.

Dudek stressed the program helps patients with loneliness. The hospital can be a “stressful place,” she said, so the dogs help forget about the pain.
“It just warms your heart,” Dudek said. ~ Submitted by Lynda Dudek

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